Home Posts tagged "Deadlift"

Are You Training Mobility or Just Mobilizing?

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Frank Duffy. With the early bird registration deadline for our fall seminar being this Friday (9/22), I asked Frank to give us a little glimpse into some of the stuff he'll be covering in his hands-on presentation. Enjoy!

(and you can learn more about the event and register HERE)

The word “mobility” gets thrown around a lot in the fitness industry, and rightfully so. However, the context in which we use it often doesn’t correspond properly with the movements we prescribe to our clients.

In order to appreciate what true mobility training is, I think it’s important to first understand what it isn’t. Wrapping a band around a squat rack and stretching your upper back might feel great and improve passive flexibility when done for long enough periods of time, but improvements in active mobility will not be an outcome. This goes for practically any drill you see within a warm-up prior to a training program. I prescribe a lot of mobilization drills to our athletes where the primary intent is to get them feeling good for their training session. I love Split-Stance Kneeling Adductor Mobilizations, but I’m not going to sit here and say that – by themselves – they are a great way to improve long-term hip abduction mobility.

When training to improve joint mobility, the goal is to improve active range of motion. Mobility, just like any training stimulus (strength, power, muscular endurance, aerobic capacity, etc.) we’re looking to improve follows the same principles of progressive overload in order to elicit an adaptation. Connective tissue, whether it’s a muscle, tendon, ligament, capsule, or bone (to name a few), needs to be placed under mechanical stress to remodel the tissue being addressed.

When implementing the Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) system, I like to expose new clients to Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) in order to help them understand how to properly train for long-lasting joint range of motion improvements. While CARs will not directly improve our joint mobility, they do provide us with four main benefits that I’ve listed below.

1. Assessment: CARs are a great tool for assessing the overall ranges of motion at each joint. They allow us to move each joint throughout its full range of motion under voluntary muscular contractions. When active mobility is restricted and joint function is poor, CARs also allow us to determine what our mobility training goals should be.

2. Mechanoreception: The capsule of our joint articulations is home to a high concentration of mechanoreceptors. When stimulated through end-range movements, mechanoreceptors supply the Central Nervous System with afferent feedback with information about the joint’s position in space.

3. Injury Prevention/Training Stimulus: Because CARs are performed under active contractions, the force applied to the surrounding connective tissue is below the threshold for injury (amount of force a tissue could safely absorb). When done at high enough intensity via voluntary muscular contractions, CARs could also provide a strength training stimulus for force production at the targeted joint.

4. Maintenance of Joint Range of Motion: The primary goal of executing CARs daily is to move our joints throughout their full range of motion under some degree of force. This will allow us to maintain our current ranges over time due to consistent exposure.

As mentioned above, CARs are a great way to assess the quality of each joint because they isolate the articulation being moved. Of course, our joints move interdependently with virtually every movement we perform. However, if a joint doesn’t work effectively on its own, it’s not going to work well in a global system under load. A sure-fire way to induce injury is to repetitively load a position when you haven’t prepared the involved joints for force absorption.

To break out even further, the “sticking points” of your CARs allow you to determine the appropriate joint angles at which to perform isometric contractions for both the progressive (lengthened) and regressive (shortened) tissues. By figuring out your active range of motion limitations, you’re able to create positional isometrics to learn how to expand these ranges further.

With individuals that present osseous restrictions like Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI), I still recommend CARs on a daily basis. Regardless of structural orientation, it’s important to move through whatever active range of motion you currently own. As cliché as it sounds, if you don’t use it, you lose it. However, if CARs elicit pain, there’s an underlying issue that should be referred out to an appropriate rehabilitation specialist. Cranking a joint through a painful range of motion and hoping it will get better is just a recipe for further irritation – and an articulation that continues to function at less-than-optimal quality.

Whether you’re the most nimble yogi on the planet or a powerlifter that’s as stiff as a board, you should always seek ways to expand and control your mobility. Remember, mobility always comes back to active range of motion. With this in mind, it’s important to understand that there’s no such thing as having “too much” mobility. The more range you can control, the better off you’ll be.

If you’re interested in learning more or finding a provider near you, check out the following links: FR/FRC and Kinstretch.

And, if you're interested in learning more from Frank and the rest of the Cressey Sports Performance team, be sure to check out the fall seminar on October 22. The early-bird registration deadline is this Friday.

About the Author

Frank Duffy is the Coordinator of Strength Camps at Cressey Sports Performance-Massachusetts. He is a Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms) and Kinstretch Instructor. You can contact him via email at frankduffyfitness@gmail.com, check out his website, and follow him on Instagram.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/19/17

I hope you all had a good weekend. My wife and I spent a few days in Washington, DC as tourists and baseball fans, and then I gave a shoulder seminar in Virginia before we headed home on a very delayed flight last night.

Let's kick of the week with some recommended reading and listening I covered on my trip. Before we get to it, though, just a friendly remind that September 22 (Friday) is the early-bird registration deadline for the Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar in Hudson, MA. You can find details HERE.

Now, let's get to the recommendations:

Complete Single-Leg Training - This is Mike Robertson's brand new resource, and I'm working my way through it right now. All early signs point to it being absolutely outstanding. You can save $50 this week on the introductory discount.

EC on the Pacey Performance Podcast - I joined Rob Pacey on his podcast to talk everything from rotational power development to movement assessments.

From Impossible to Inevitable - This book is largely focused on the growth of larger companies, but there are quite a few pearls of wisdom in there for folks in the fitness industry. It was a good listen; I especially liked the section on niche development.

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In Defense of the Hip Thrust

I've been a fan of barbell hip thrust and supine bridges for approximately seven years now. I'd encourage you to give my What I Learned in 2012 article a read, as it describes how our usage of these drills came about (and does so in an entertaining manner) following a meeting I had with Bret Contreras in 2009. Suffice it to say that initially, I was not a fan of these drills, but in-the-trenches experimentation eventually brought me around.

Recently, there has been some controversy over the utility of hip thrusts, as some newer research publications (here and here) have demonstrated that hip thrust training does not improve sprinting speed. Bret Contreras, the man who popularized the hip thrust, has written a detailed response to these publications. For the record, I think he's handled the situation admirably, and I commend him for all his work adding to the body of knowledge so that we can all have these discussions in hopes of fine-tuning our strength training programs.

That said, not surprisingly, these research findings have created an opportunity for hip thrust critics to say "I told you so" - and several articles have emerged to highlight its lack of efficacy on this front. That said, I found Doug Kechijian's article, 'Science' and the Barbell Hip Thrust, to be the best of the articles that have recently emerged. Doug doesn't utilize the hip thrust, but used this current situation as a means of discussing how we view exercise selection on the whole. I'd strongly encourage you to give it a read.

While I must admit that I wasn't particularly surprised at the lack of carryover to sprinting performance, I don't think it's time to throw the baby out with the bath water just yet. Why? As I've often said:

[bctt tweet="Want to put an exercise in a program? You must be able to quickly and easily justify its inclusion."]

In this case, I still have plenty of justifications for including hip thrusts and supine bridges in our programs. I don't think they're ever a perfect replacement for a squat or deadlift, but I do see a role for them in special circumstances, and as assistance exercises. In today's post, I'll outline why I still find these drills to have great utility.

1. Zero Back Pain

Yes, you read that right. In close to a decade of using these drills with clients, athletes, and our coaching staff, I've never seen anyone injured during a hip thrust or supine bridge. For how many other exercises can you say that? Certainly squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, or even single-leg work. In hindsight, it's shocking that a drill that looks like it could be harmful (and this was my initial reluctance to include it) actually has such an excellent record on the safety front. Obviously, we're matching it to the individual and coaching technique, but this is still an impressive observation.

Moreover, I've sold more than 8,000 copies of my flagship product, The High Performance Handbook. It includes barbell supine bridges in phase 2, and barbell hip thrusts in phase 3. This is 8,000+ people who've performed these exercises without my supervision, and I've never had a single email from anyone about an injury. Conversely, I've answered a ton of emails over the years from customers who need modifications because squatting and/or deadlifting aren't drills they can perform pain-free. I think this is remarkably telling; hip thrusts have stood the test of time in terms of safety concerns.

Finally, I've actually seen quite a few individuals who couldn't squat or deadlift pain-free actually perform barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges with zero pain over the course of years. They've bolstered a training effect that otherwise would have been markedly attenuated.

2. Hip thrusts allow us to train the posterior chain without deadlifts in a population that may not do well with scapular depression and downward rotation.

One thing we know about throwing a baseball is that it makes you very lat dominant and tends to drive scapular downward rotation.

As I discuss in this video, scapular upward rotation is incredibly important for throwers.

Sometimes, we'll see athletes who sit in so much scapular depression or downward rotation that we choose to avoid lat dominant exercises and heavy carries/holds in their programs. So, drills like deadlifts, farmer's walks, KB swings, and dumbbell lunges are out of the mix. When you lose deadlifts from a program, you realize that you've lost a big bang exercise for training the posterior chain. Barbell hip thrusts have been a huge help to us in this regard, as they give us a bilateral option for training the posterior chain. Otherwise, it'd be just safety squat bar (SSB) squats and single-leg work, the goblet set-up, belt squats, and glute-ham raise (GHR) variations. And, a lot of people don't have a SSB, belt squat, or GHR!

Interestingly, I can actually think of several instances over the years where we dropped deadlifting from a pitcher's program - and replaced it with hip thrusts - and his shoulder pain went away. I don't think improvements like this happen in isolation, but I have no doubt that it contributed to the reduction in symptoms.

3. Hip thrusts prioritize terminal hip extension, which is actually far more important to baseball success.

I want you to watch these videos of the hips during the baseball swing (and while you're at it, check out Jeff Albert's great guest post for me: Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing).

What I'm hoping you noticed is that while hip extension is incredibly important (for both the front and back legs), there is very little of it occurring in terms of actual range of motion. The same can be said of the pitching delivery; very rarely would a pitching come close to being a 90 degrees of hip flexion on the back hip.

Tim Collins early in his career was the most extreme hip flexion I've seen, and he's not even all the way down to 90 degrees:

In other words, hips thrusts and supine bridges reflect the shorter range of hip flexion/extension motion we see in hitting and pitching than they do for a higher amplitude movement like sprinting.


Source: Darren Wilkinson

To be clear, I'm not saying that squats and deadlifts don't train this range (especially when accommodating resistances like bands and chains are utilized); I'm just saying that hip thrusts and supine bridges train it exclusively and may provide some extra carryover.

4. Hip thrusts allow us to train the lower body without a grip challenge.

Load of gripping can also be an issue during the baseball season. Guys obviously get plenty of it from their upper body work, but when you add in the stress of throwing on the flexor tendons, more work on lower body days can push some pitchers over the edge in terms of forearm symptoms. This can also be an issue during post-operative elbow scenarios, as some surgeons can "beat up" the flexor tendon a bit more during Tommy John surgeries. With these athletes, we'll often plug hip thrusts in to replace deadlifts for 4-8 week spans.

5. The hip thrust helps to maintain a training effect in post-operative elbow and shoulder situations.

Building on my last point, we utilize barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges a lot with our post-op clients. If we are talking about a Tommy John surgery, you aren't using a safety squat bar until two months post-op, or deadlifting until closer to five months (and even then, the loading has to be severely restricted). Conversely, provided they have someone to load plates for them, these athletes can hip thrust as early as 4-6 weeks (assuming we aren't dealing with a lower extremity graft site), and loading appreciably by weeks 8-10. That's a huge deal.

Shoulder surgeries are a bit slower to come around, but you're definitely able to hip thrust well before you use the safety squat bar or integrate deadlifts. In short, if you want bilateral loading in a post-operative situation, hip thrusts below right up there in the discussion with glute-ham raises - and serve as a good complement to sled dragging with a belt/harness and various single-leg drills.

6. Hip thrusts don't create much delayed onset muscle soreness.

It's hard to really overload the eccentric (lowering) component of a hip thrust - and this may be one reason why it doesn't carry over to sprinting as much as a squat would. However, this non-soreness-inducing quality can actually be of benefit, as we often want to avoid it with in-season athletes or those trying to achieve a higher volume of work in their training programs. This is actually a perk of several deadlift variations, too.

7. Hip thrusts are a safe way to get in higher-rep sets.

In the quest to put on some muscle, high-rep squatting and deadlifting often wind up getting pretty ugly by the end of the sets unless they're regressed in some fashion (e.g., goblet squats). And, on a personal note, any time that I deadlift for more than eight reps, I get a massive headache that lasts about three days. I've found that higher rep barbell supine bridge (moreso than hip thrusts) are a good option for sets of 12-15 at the end of a session to kick in some extra volume safely. It's pretty darn hard to screw this up, you know?

Thoughts on Loading

On several occasions, I've heard folks criticize barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges because even seemingly untrained individuals can use so much weight. It's a valid assertion - but only to a point.

My experience has been that many individuals moving big weights are really short-changing themselves on the last 5-10 degrees of hip extension. They're either stopping short or getting lumbar extension (moving through the lower back). Often, when you fine-tune the technique and make them hold for a count at the top, they'll have to reduce the weight significantly. As a rule of thumb, though, I view the risk:benefit ratio with hip thrusts as being comparable to that of deadlifts in an athletic population; going heavier than 495 pounds probably isn't worth the risk or time involved. You're better off changing the tempo (longer pauses at the top) or switching to a different (and possibly more technically advanced) exercise that doesn't "come naturally" to the lifter. In short, find a different window of adaptation instead of just trying to move big weights through a short range-of-motion.

As an interesting aside to this, my deadlifts are actually significantly stronger than my hip thrusts. It's likely a function of "getting what you train," but I think it's an interesting argument against the idea that even weak people can automatically move big weights.

Last, but not least, remember that relatively untrained people can often push a lot of weight on sleds on turf, and rack pulls are usually substantially heavier than one's deadlift. Does that make them useless, too?

Closing Thoughts

New research is always warranted in any field, but particularly in strength and conditioning, a dynamic industry that has changed remarkably over the past few decades. In many cases, it takes a lot of time and experimentation to understand just how something fits (or doesn't fit) in our training approaches. Personally, I always come back to the "justifying the inclusion of a lift" question I noted earlier in this article. My experience has been that barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges have stood the test of time in this regard - and done so safely. I view them much more as an assistance exercise, as opposed to something that would ever replace squats or deadlifts. However, in the special circumstances I've outlined above, I think they will continue to fill in nicely.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/11/17

I hope that everyone had a good weekend - and that our readers who are all safe in light of Hurricane Irma. Here's a little recommended reading/listening to kick off your week. Before I get to it, though, I should give a friendly reminder that each month, Cressey Sports Performance staff and I upload webinars, in-services, exercise demonstrations, and articles to Elite Training Mentorship. This is a super affordable and thorough continuing education resource that is updated regularly, and I'd encourage you to check it out HERE.

Why "Just Stretch Your Hamstrings" is Bad Advice - This article is a few weeks old, but I'd forgotten to add it to our weekly collection when I first came across it in mid-August. As always, Doug Kechijian hit several nails on the head.

Hip CARs in the Push-up Position - This is a great video Cressey Sports Performance coach Frank Duffy posted recently. It's an excellent example of the interaction between hip mobility and core stability.

7 Ways to Get Strong Outside the Sagittal Plane - I reincarnated this old article from my archives yesterday, as I think it's a collection of important progressions for rotational sport athletes as they kick off the offseason.

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The Success is in the Struggle

Back in my graduate school days, I did some personal training at a gym not far from campus. My days were filled with work in the human performance lab and varsity weight rooms, but I felt like it was really important that I continued to train general fitness clients to become more proficient in that demographic – and help pay the bills.

Like most guys in my early 20s, I thought I had life all figured out. A few months in, my boss informed me that I was due for a performance review. She also mentioned that they were deviating from the “norm” a bit, and that my sit-down meeting would not be with her, but rather, with one of the more experienced trainers, Kris. I didn’t really think anything of it, and the meeting was scheduled for the following week.

Looking back, that meeting was profoundly impactful for me, even if I didn’t fully grasp just how important it was at the time.

Kris first complimented me on what I did well: work ethic, passion, attention to detail, coaching, and book smarts. Looking back, it was a perfect Dale Carnegie approach before I’d ever even read How to Win Friends and Influence People. Eventually, though, the conversation delved into the topic of empathy; she asked me what I thought most of my clients really wanted to get out of their personal training with me.

Here I was, a 22-year-old aspiring powerlifter who thought the world was out to train for a 600lb deadlift and get to 200 pounds at 6% body fat. My most loyal client, though, was a 68-year-old accountant who just didn’t want his neck and shoulder to hurt when he worked out and picked up his grandkids. Another was an elderly woman who was far more concerned about her risk of osteoporosis than her vertical jump.

That day, without telling me I sucked at relating to my clients, Kris taught me a ton about empathy and separating myself from personal biases. She just tactfully challenged me with a simple question. It wasn’t much different than the “guided discovery” approach we use with young athletes when we walk them into a little technique failure so that they can appreciate the wrong pattern.

“Where did you feel that?”

“Can you stop rowing when your elbow hits my hand?”

“See how your nose got to the floor before your chest on that push-up? Can you switch that up?”

Kris saw exactly what I needed to become a better coach, and she delivered the message perfectly. In hindsight, that lesson in empathy and separating myself from personal biases probably made a huge difference in enabling me to be successful in training baseball players even though I wasn’t a baseball player past eighth grade. I had to do a lot more listening and ask a lot more questions. Kris understood this all too well – and modeled it, too: she’d had clients for over a decade!

That was 2003. Now, 14 years later, Kris and I are still good friends. She sent us gifts when our twins were born. I help out with training her son, an up-and-coming pitcher. Of any of my co-workers at that time, she challenged me the most – and she’s the only one with whom I really keep in touch. How is that for impactful? 

I actually reached out to her before posting this blog, and her response included the following:

"I remember this conversation well. I dreaded giving this performance review! I remember thinking that I knew how smart you were (probably smarter than I) and I knew that this trainer job was ultimately not your end point. I wanted to make sure you knew how valuable your knowledge was when applied correctly. How do you tell someone their delivery is not as sensitive as it needs to be??

"I'm so glad that I succeeded in my message and that this lesson has stayed with you. I am honored that you, who I respect immensely, learned something from me. You never really know how much you can impact a person's behavior and thought process."

Now, imagine she’d never spoken up. Or, even worse, if she had – but I wasn’t ready to accept that constructive criticism. I wouldn’t be the coach (or person) I am today. This is why we should be massively grateful to those who not only have constructive criticism to offer, but choose to provide it with the correct approach.

When it really comes down to it, people struggle or fail to improve for one of three reasons.

a) They don’t know what they’re doing incorrectly.

b) They don’t have actionable strategies to address these issues; don’t understand how to employ these strategies; or haven't had enough consistency or success with these strategies.

c) They aren’t willing to change.

In terms of A, it’s important to challenge people tactfully and make them aware of their blind spots. Particularly in the youth sports realm, this is getting to be a very dicey situation. Many kids think they have it all figured out, and more concerning, many parents think coaches “have it in” for their kids, so they block constructive criticism. If we protect kids from understanding their weaknesses, they don’t grow. If we challenge kids, let them know failure isn’t a big deal, and then provide strategies to improve, they thrive. It’s been demonstrated in motor learning research, the educational realm, and social settings. As has often been said, “the success is in the struggle.”

Conversely, some people need help with B. This is the kid who is always late for practice, or always misses breakfast because he oversleeps. He needs time management strategies, and people around him to whom he can be accountable.

Scenario C is far and away the most challenging dynamic. These are situations where you may actually cheer against someone in hopes that they’ll struggle mightily and come to their senses on what needs to change. In an athletic context, it’s usually the kid who is the best player in the history of his town even though he eats fast food at every meal, skips training sessions, and stays up all night. It’s just a matter of time until he runs into genetically gifted competition that is far more prepared and motivated than he is.

Aroldis Chapman throws 105mph – harder than anyone in baseball history – and he has a 4.12 ERA this year. Mike Trout struck out three times in a game earlier this year. Ultimately, no matter who you are, sports and life will humble you in some capacity. Athletes are better off learning these struggles at a young age so that they’ll have strategies for dealing with them for the decades that follow.

What are the take-home messages?

1. Always be open to constructive criticism. In fact, seek it out. You can’t see your blind spots like others can.

2. Don’t protect your kid from constructive criticism, or immediately discredit criticisms of you. Process them before reacting. And remember the person delivering the criticism may actually be really nervous about doing so.

3. If you deliver constructive criticism, be cognizant of matching your approach to the personality of the one who’s receiving it.

4. Always reiterate that failure is part of life and not a big deal. And, if it seems like a big deal – particularly with young athletes – find ways to minimize consequences.

5. If you know why you’re struggling, find and employ strategies to address your weaknesses.

6. Thank you, Kris!
 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/4/17

Happy Labor Day! I hope you're all enjoying the long weekend and not laboring too hard. In the event you're laying low and relaxing today, here are a few reading/listening recommendations for your weekend.

Upcoming Atlanta Seminar - Just a quick heads-up that I announced a new date for my one-day shoulder course. it'll be in Atlanta on November 5.

Game Changer - I'm just 60 pages into this new release from Fergus Connolly (Performance Director for the University of Michigan football team) and it's excellent. If sports science intrigues you, I'd definitely recommend you give it a read. I got an advanced copy, but it officially publishes on 9/5 and is well worth the pre-order.

Gym Owner Musings: Installment 7 - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, always has some good thoughts to share in these features.

My Favorite "Catch-All" Assessment - A discussion last week reminded me to "reincarnate" this popular article I wrote a few years ago about the overhead lunge walk.

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*Narrow exercise selections make for impressive lifters, but less impressive athletes.* 👇 With our typical minor league baseball player, we may actually have time to get through six 4-week programs over the course of an offseason. In six months - especially if we happen to have an athlete who is genetically gifted for strength development - we *could* get guys freaky strong on a few big lifts. We choose not to, however. Why? 🤔 A narrow exercise selection can lead to some very impressive weight room performances on a few lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift, clean, etc. This specificity can be great if you want to be a one (or three) trick pony (powerlifter), but not quite as helpful if you're an athlete who actually needs to change directions, demonstrate motor control at extreme ranges of motion, and handle a variety of sport-specific loads and velocities. ⚾️ Here, @ryancusick33 demonstrates some of the "athletic versatility" that made him a 95mph arm and @wakebaseball commit in the 2018 class. Additional thoughts in the comments below. #cspfamily #sportsperformance #pitching #SportsMedicine #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #deadlift #turkishgetup

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/28/17

This week's recommended reading/listening has a bit more of a lifestyle/chronic disease theme to it, but I'm sure you'll still find these resources very useful.

Physical Preparation Podcast with Nick Littlehales - This podcast might have been the best one I've listened to ion 2017. This is an outstanding discussion on sleep strategies from one of the best in the world on the topic.

Can Supplemental Vitamin D Improve Sleep? - This was an insightful post from the Examine.com crew in light of some research that was recently published.

25 Nutrition and Lifestyle Strategies to Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease - I read this article from Precision Nutrition with great interest, as there is some family history for me in this realm. This is an excellent review of the research we have at our fingertips.

August 25 Facebook Live - I did this Q&A on Wednesday afternoon; you can watch the recording of it here:

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5 Reasons to Use “Fillers” in Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

One of the first things some individuals notice when they come to observe at Cressey Sports Performance is that we often pair “big bang” strength and power movements with lower intensity drills. This is also a common programming theme many of those who have completed my High Performance Handbook program have noticed.

As an example, we might pair a prone trap raise with a deadlift…

…or a hip mobility drill with a bench press.

We call these low-intensity inclusions “fillers.” Truthfully, though, I’m not sure that this name does them justice, as “filler” seems to imply a lack of importance. In reality, I think these drills have a profound impact on improving each client/athlete’s session. Here are five reasons why.

1. Fillers slow advanced athletes down on power and strength work.

Optimal training for strength and power mandates that athletes take ample time between sets to recharge. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes have a tendency to rush through this type of work because it doesn't create the same kind of acute fatigue that you'd get from a set of higher-rep work. Muscular fatigue is a lot easier to perceive than neural fatigue. In other words, you'll want to rest more after a set of six squats than you would after a set of six heidens, even if you were attempting to put maximal force into the ground on each rep with both.

By pairing the strength or power exercise with something a little more mellow, we “force” athletes to take adequate rest and get quality work in on subsequent sets of the “meat and potatoes.”

2. Fillers provide extra opportunities to work on basic movement competencies and corrective exercises.

If something is important, do it every day. For some people, this might be hip mobility work. For others, it might be some rotator cuff work. You might as well do it when you’d otherwise be standing around resting.

3. Fillers improve training economy – and may even allow you to shorten the warm-ups a bit.

This point is best illustrated with an example. Let’s say that I would normally do an 8-10 exercise dynamic flexibility warm-up before my lifting-specific work. Then, I’m warming up to a 600-pound deadlift like this:

135x8
225x5
315x3
405x3
455x1
495x1
545x1
585x1
600x1

On that warm-up progression, I have eight “between-set” breaks to get in a little extra work. Sure, I’m loading on plates, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bang out a few quick reps of ankle mobility or scapular control work. This can be pretty clutch – especially once I’m at the heavier warm-up sets that require a bit more rest – as it can actually allow me to shorten my earlier general warm-up period a bit.

When it comes to training economy, everyone wants to talk about exercise selection (picking multi-joint exercises) and finding ways to increase training density (more volume in a given amount of time). However, don’t forget that movement quality work is still “work.”

4. Fillers help to prevent “backups” in the training facility.

This is a double-edged sword. If you’re doing some hip mobility work between sets in a busy commercial gym, if you aren’t careful, it probably will increase your likelihood of someone stealing your squat rack.

However, in the collegiate, professional, and private sectors, incorporating fillers can be invaluable in preventing log jams where many athletes are trying to use the same piece of equipment at the same time. If you’ve got three athletes sharing the same trap bar, fillers can help things flow a bit smoother – particularly because it keeps less-than-attentive athletes from screwing around between sets.

5. Fillers may give deconditioned clients active recovery between sets to make the most of their time with you.

For some clients, the warm-up is the workout. In other words, they may be so deconditioned that even a set of the Spiderman with hip lift and overhead reach will get their heart rate up. If you paired this mobility drill with an inverted row, it might be a perfect fit for their fitness level. Conversely, if you paired that inverted row with a Bulgarian split squat, it might crush them. In this case, the filler is hardly a filler!

Fillers might have a connotation of “unimportant,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Try incorporating them in your programs to get higher quality work, improve training economy, and bring up weak links.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/21/17

I finished up my NYC seminar yesterday and am sticking around to spend a day in the city with my wife today, but I prepared a recommended reading list for you to enjoy in the meantime. Check it out:

Attentional Focus and Cuing - Nick Winkelman wrote this great article for Club Connect's online magazine. If you're looking for a good introduction to internal vs. external focus cues, this is a good place to start.


Source: ClubConnect.com

20 Tips for Young Coaches - Mike Robertson crushed it with this new podcast with tips for aspiring coaches.

The Ideal Business Show with Eric Cressey - Speaking of podcasts, this interview I did for Pat Rigsby a year ago, and I still think it's one of the best ones with which I've been involved.

Top Tweet of the Week -

Top Instagram Post of the Week -

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: When Precision Tops Effort

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, John O'Neil.

Openly communicating expectations on an exercise-by-exercise level as a coach can go a long way in ensuring the outcome of the chosen program is as intended. A typical new client we see will give near maximal effort on every exercise, not understanding that heavier does not equal better and there’s a problem if something that’s meant to be lower intensity becomes a straining exercise. Too often I see random exercises done with an inappropriate amount of weight because the client doesn’t understand that harder isn’t better; smarter is better. While you want to pile plates on for some lifts, with others, the load is less important than the execution. The important thing is that the athlete/client understands your intentions as the person who wrote the program – and that communication is a two-way street.

In our model at Cressey Sports Performance, we will typically pair something that is meant to be heavier with something that is meant to be lighter. Only a few exercise will meant to be loaded heavily, and in the rest, precision of technique is the focus. A sample lower body day for a pitcher might be:

A1) Trap Bar Deadlift: 4x5
A2) Alternating Prone Trap Raise on Stability Ball: 3x8/side
B1) Double KB Reverse Lunges: 3x8/side
B2) Supine 90/90 External Rotation Holds: 3x(2x6)
C1) KB Goblet Lateral Lunges: 3x8/side
C2) Side Bridges: 3x5 breaths/side
D1) Split-Stance Rhythmic Stabilization, 3 positions: 3x5-5-5sec
D2) Core-Engaged Dead Bugs: 3x5/side

When we look at a day like this, we need to have knowledge of the difference between central and peripheral stress. The above day has 1 central stressor, 1-2 loadable peripheral stressors, and 5-6 exercises that are never meant to crush someone (lateral lunges are the in-between, depending on the person). Most effective training days will only have 1-3 central stressors, and the rest will be peripheral.

Think of these like main lifts vs. accessory lifts. This is not to demean the accessory lifts, as they are necessary to our programming and we will use them to assure local muscular hypertrophy, sports-specific positional stability, and general health. Exercises that affect the central nervous system will include your big bang-for-your-buck lifts like squats, deadlifts, and presses. These are the ones in the weight room that we can load up and effectively train in rep schemes of five and below.

To monitor the success of this sample day, the trap bar deadlift should be done at a high RPE (ratings of perceived exertion). This might be through a 1-10 number scale. Ask the client how many more reps they could have done and if they say 1, it was a 9. If they say 2, it was 8, and so on.

To keep this easier in a semi-private training model with many young clients drastically misinterpreting a number scale, I simply tell the person something like “this should be very hard, but never feel impossible.” If you have experience coaching, you can typically tell when someone’s technique is about to break down if they attempted another rep.

[bctt tweet="If you safely strain to just below technical failure, you chose a good weight for a main lift."]

Peripheral stressors are the exercises that you should really never come close to missing. Even if someone is extremely strong at an 8-rep reverse lunge, rep 8 shouldn’t be a grinder and rep 9 should always be possible. With clients, I like to communicate that exact idea: precision of the movement and owning the technique at a moderately challenging level will go a lot further than being sloppy and adding more weight.

This is not to say these are easy exercises, though. In fact, the peripheral stressors are often the exercises that will make you sore as they attack more localized areas and are done in rep schemes (8-12) that are more congruent with hypertrophy. The problem with not communicating the appropriate weights on these exercises is they will potentially take away from the benefits the main exercises (central stressors) will provide. Train your main exercises to a point of safely straining, and train your accessory lifts with mental intent and precision.

About the Author

John O'Neil (@ONeilStrength) is a coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at joh.oneil@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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