Home Posts tagged "EliteFTS"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/21/18

I hope you're having a great week. I'm gearing up for a weekend of presenting in Colorado, but the good news is that having some flights opens up some time for distraction-free reading and writing on the plane. Here are some good reads from around the 'net from the past week:

New Rules for Being a Strength Coach - Todd Hamer wrote this great piece up for EliteFTS, and I love the concept of continuous improvement in strength and conditioning. Todd's a guy who is always seeking to get better, no matter how long he's been in the industry.

Having an Approach to Having an Approach - This was a guest blog I wrote for my business partner, Pete Dupuis, a few years ago. I cover some fitness business concepts, including networking and lifetime value of a customer.

5 No-Diet Ways to Get Lean - I really liked this article from Dani Shugart on behavior modifications for nutritional success.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/3/18

I hope you're having a great week. Here's some recommended reading from around the 'net to finish it off on a high note.

11 Deadlifting Tips - I contributed to this deadlift compilation for T-Nation, and it covers this big lift from a number of different perspectives.

The Biggest Change in Strength Coaching - This quick post from Dave Tate was spot-on with where I see the industry headed in future years.

Vernon Griffith on Communication, Mindset, and Lasting Impact in Youth Athletics - I love learning from coaches who understand how to get through to athletes and create long-term positive changes. This podcast is a great example.

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When we coach our overhead medicine ball stomp variations, I never want athletes to try to "deaden" the rebound by catching the ball as it comes right off the floor. This approach is shown in the video on the right, and you'll notice that I'm already in deceleration mode (in anticipation of "protecting" against the rebound) rather than powering through the entire range of motion. Contrast it to the better technique on the left, where I just "let it eat" and then "regroup" with a catch at torso height. 👇 Another downside to trying to stop the rebound closer to the floor is that it markedly increases the likelihood that you'll jam a thumb. And, where there really aren't any benefits to stopping the rebound lower down, it's really not worth the risk. #cspfamily

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 13

Things have been a bit quieter on the blog of late, as I'm working with the Team USA 18U baseball squad for the World Cup. I'm actually in Osaka, Japan now, and while the days have been very full, but it's been a fantastic experience on a number of fronts. And, it's gotten me to thinking a lot about athletic development in many contexts - some of which I'll touch on with this August edition of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance.

1. Nutrition is still king.

While my official title is "strength and conditioning coach," you can't possibly expect to do a good job in this role unless you're also willing to be an advocate for proper nutrition with your athletes. Especially with teenage athletes, though, it's important to meet them where they are - and address the most pressing issues first. If a kid is only getting in 1,500 calories/day and has been losing weight all summer, it'd be silly for me to hone in on his fatty acid balance and nitpick that he chose pasta over rice. Rather, the first step is to figure out how to conveniently get in some healthy calories in his day.

Nutrition can get incredibly complex over time, but it doesn't need to be early on. If you overwhelm young athletes by throwing too many changes at them early on, they'll tune you out and nothing will be accomplished. I'll often have an athlete focus on three habits for 21 days before we move on to the next three. It doesn't overwhelm them, and you can quickly build on previous successes.

2. Learn to "bias" exercises toward individual needs.

The bench t-spine mobilization is one of my favorite exercises. We typically use it for folks who have a shoulder flexion deficit or lack thoracic extension.

What a lot of people don't understand is that you can quickly take good exercises like the bench t-spine mobilization and make them great by adding in subtle changes. In this example, if someone has stiff/short adductors, we can have them move the knees out wider for a groin stretch. If someone is really lordotic (heavily arched lower back posture), we can have them exhale before they descend to get a bit more anterior core activation to pull the ribs down and pelvis into posterior tilt.

Obviously, this is just good coaching - but it illustrates the need for assessment. If you're not assessing, you're just guessing on which "quick fixes" can make a good exercise into a great exercise.

3. With overhead athletes, stick with the overhand grip on the dominant side during alternate grip movements.

The typical pitcher's long head of the biceps tendon gets a lot of abuse during the throwing motion. At the lay-back position, it's helping out the rotator cuff and anterior capsule by working as an anterior and superior stabilizer of the glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint.

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Then, at ball release, it's continuing these stabilizing functions, but also in more of a compressive role to keep the humeral head from distracting from the joint - and this is happening while it's trying to help slow elbow extension.

With this in mind, my rule of thumb is to always try to take stress off the biceps tendon in our training. One way we can do so is to avoid using the "underhand" grip on the dominant side with deadlifts. If you're going to use the alternate grip, keep that dominant hand as the "over" hand (or just pull with a double overhand grip, or use the trap bar). It's also important to take the slack out of the bar so that the biceps isn't aggressively stretching from a flexed-to-extended elbow position at the initiation of a deadlift.

4. Work capacity is incredibly important for teenage athletes - possibly even more than with college and professional athletes.

In the high school years, athletic development should be linear improvements with the occasional "flat line" of progression, but there should never be noteworthy falloffs in fitness qualities. This is the case because young athletes have a larger window of adaptation and can be very responsive to even minimal doses of training. They're also more resilient and can bounce back quickly from session to session, making it possible to do more work during the in-season period - particularly in a setting that may be more developmental (junior varsity) than competitive (playoffs).

Once athletes have a solid training foundation, it becomes impossible to maintain every fitness quality throughout the competitive year, which obviously gets more and more grueling in college and professional sports. We have to learn how to prioritize fitness qualities throughout the year, and just as importantly, we need to appreciate how to optimize recovery so that athletes can best display these qualities from day to day.

Revisiting the high school athlete, though, the linear progression "ideal" that we seek is heavily dependent on an athlete building an appreciable level of work capacity in the "true" off-season that exists. In a baseball model, if the athlete has the initial work capacity to "fall back on," we can get in more quality work in July and August to at least preserve the "flat line" or even gain a small amount of fitness. If that work capacity was never there, pushing an athlete - even if it's just a little bit - can set back performance substantially. In short, it's much easier to impose fatigue on someone who's never experienced enough fatigue to get desensitized to it.

This point illustrates why working with the 18U National Team has been a good challenge. All the players are 16-17 years old, so we have a wide variety of training experience - and certainly different starting levels of work capacity. Some pitchers have thrown twice as many innings as other ones. We have some two-way players (pitch and play the field). Different athletes come from different climates (this is very significant, given how hot and humid it is in Asia right now). Needless to say, determining who needs to be pushed and who needs to be held back from day to day is a solid challenge. I'm really enjoying it - and it's definitely gotten me back to my roots of pushing rest, recovery modalities, and quality nutrition and hydration.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/30/15

 Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

The Coaching Grey Zone: When to Simply Shut Up - Dean Somerset makes some great points on when the best coaching approach is to just leave an athlete/client alone.

A Day with Alex Viada: The Hybrid Athlete - We hosted Alex Viada for a seminar at Cressey Sports Performance, and it was fantastic. In this article, Tony Gentilcore summarizes some of the key takeaways.

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EliteFTS Sports Performance Podcast with Chris Doyle - This is an awesome interview with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. He's a super bright and down-to-Earth guy.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/20/15

It's Marathon Monday here in Massachusetts, but just in case you're not here to experience the excitement (or marathons don't excite you, anyway), here's some good reading to atone for it:

EliteFTS Sports Performance Podcast - I was interviewed for this last week, and we covered a host of business and training topics. Hope you enjoy it!

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3 Reasons to Lift Weights Slower - Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio shares some insights that'll definitely lead to more productive training sessions.

No More Pulled Hamstrings! - My good buddy Mike Robertson shares five points on preventing hamstrings injuries. If you're looking for a quick introduction to the Postural Restoration Institute school of thought, this is a good teaser.

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An Interview with Bob Youngs

As one of the best powerlifters in the world today, Bob Youngs has forgotten more than most lifters will ever know. He has more under the bar knowledge than almost anyone you'll meet, and just as importantly, he’s as down to earth as they come. I’ve been working with Bob as he works to rehabilitate a few old powerlifting injuries. In the process of interacting with him, I’ve come to realize just how much the strength and conditioning community is missing with this guy flying somewhat “under the radar.” Fortunately, he was more than willing to do this interview for us. Enjoy! Continue Reading...
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An Interview with Eric Cressey

Eric Cressey has certainly made a name for himself in the short time that he’s been around the strength and conditioning circuit. This can be attributed to two reasons; he is smart on and off the platform. After receiving his master’s degree from the University of Connecticut, Eric continues to help athletes as well as being a contributor to T-Nation and Men’s Fitness. He is no slouch on the platform either. Eric lifts in the 165lbs weight class and has a 518 squat, a 342 bench press, and he has pulled 601. His best total is 1461. Eric has some great ideas and thoughts; now read and learn. Continue Reading...
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Healing the Hips

Ask any powerlifter what his most important joint is, and he’ll promptly answer “the hips.” The hips provide strength and stability in all three lifts. If you’re weak at the hips, you’re not going to do much on the platform. The same goes for all other athletes. The posterior chain is crucial for athletic success.

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Frequent Pulling for Faster Progress: 12 Weeks to a Bigger Deadlift

The deadlift is the bastard child of powerlifting; it doesn’t get much love. Maybe it’s the fact that the deadlift is less impacted by equipment than are the squat and bench press, so it may require less practice. Or, it might just be vilified because lifts 7-9 of a powerlifting meet feel like cardio after a long day of lifting. Finally, it may be that many lifters and coaches hold that the deadlift is best trained indirectly, and that the chips will just fall into place if you focus on squats, good mornings, and plenty of assistance work. While this may be the case in some instances, there are also quite a few lifters who have made tremendous progress with more frequent pulling, and that’ll be my focus in this article.

Up until this past July 30, I was a member of the “leave it alone” crowd. All that changed between August and November of this year, though. Going into AWPC Worlds this past summer, my best pull was 556.5 at a body weight of 163. It’s not a tremendous pull, by my own admission, but it was good enough for a Powerlifting USA Top 50 ranking. In preparing for Worlds, I had what I thought was a very productive training cycle; both my squat and bench felt great, and I expected the pull to just come along for the ride and magically improve. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I wound up going out and pulling 567.5 at 164. It was a PR, but I was anything but content with it. Very simply, I felt like crap when the time came to pull. In my mind, there was no excuse for me to not be ready when the time came – especially as a lightweight (who are expected to recover faster between lifts than their heavier counterparts). My opener should have been speed weight, but it came up slower than expected.

My second attempt (567.5) was a good six-second grinder. At this point, I was completely gassed; I practically needed a hit of ammonia just to get out of my chair and up to the platform for attempt #3. Needless to say, I missed the lift after getting it to about mid-shin; I didn’t have anything left to grind it out. In spite of taking home the junior lightweight best lifter trophy, I beat myself up on the inside for the entire flight home from Chicago that night. This flight actually turned out to be one of the most productive two hours of my training career, though, as I mapped out my plan for the subsequent 12-week training cycle.

The end result? A 6% improvement in 12 weeks; I wound up pulling an easy 601 on my third attempt in November, leaving a good 15-20 pounds on the platform – all after setting PR’s on my squat and bench press. So, it wasn’t inconceivable to think that the template I outline below added 10% to my pull in a single 12-week training cycle.

Outlining a Solution

There are seven basic tenets for the program:

1. On the whole, pull more frequently. Specificity of training is more important than you think; it takes practice to fine-tune your set-up and movement execution.

2. Pull for speed after your dynamic effort squats for the first three weeks of the month.

3. During these three weeks, your first assistance exercise on max effort squat/deadlift day should be a deadlift variation.

4. In the fourth week of each month, your max effort squat/deadlift movement will be a deadlift variation in order to allow you to monitor progress. The other three weeks should be squat and good morning variations.

5. Learn to pull in a state of fatigue – which is exactly what happens in competition.

6. Make sure to do your DES/D session before your MES/D session in the weekly training split. For example, I do my dynamic work on Sunday morning and my max effort work on Wednesday night.

7. Overall training stress – a function of volume, intensity, exercise complexity, and a number of other factors – should be fluctuated from week to week using the following format: high, medium, very high, low.

I’ve made some modifications to suit the unique needs of different lifters. As a lifter whose sticking point is at lockout, I focus more on accommodating resistance. Lifters who tend to have problems off the floor would be best off with pulls from a deficit, as I’ve noted in parenthesis to allow you to modify the program as needed. Keep in mind that the pulling below was just one component of my program; I was also doing squat and good morning variations, GHR’s, single-leg movements, and plenty of core work.

12 Week Deadlift Program

Week 1: High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Bands (if you’re weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the bands). Bar Weight = 50%, 10 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts (wearing straps is fine). 3 sets of 4 (work up to them; they should be heavy).

I used a controlled bounce between reps, as I am weak at the top. Those who are weak off the floor should pause between reps.

Week 2: Medium Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Bands (if you’re weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the bands). Bar Weight = 55%, 8 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts (wearing straps is fine). 2 sets of 3 (work up).

Same guidelines as noted above.

Week 3: Very High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Bands (for those who are weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the chains). Bar Weight = 60%, 12 sets of 1.

Note: These last few sets shouldn’t feel much like speed in light of the higher percentage of 1RM, considerable band tension, and accumulated fatigue.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts (wearing straps is fine). 4 sets of 4 (aim to use work weight from week 2).

Same guidelines as noted above.

The goal with week three is to dip into your reserves considerably, so a run-down feeling is to be expected at week’s end and into the first 4-5 days of week 4. Remember that fatigue masks fitness; the idea is to deload considerably in the early part of week 4 so that your system will recuperate to the point of being able to demonstrate its true fitness by later in the week - when you’ll test your max.

Week 4: Low Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No pulling (easy day).

Max Effort - MES/D: Main Movement should be a deadlift variation (e.g. competition pull, altered stance, reverse band deadlift, deadlift against bands/chains, or deadlift from a deficit).

Omit first assistance movement (Snatch Grip Deadlifts) from weeks 1-3.

Week 5: High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Chains (for those who are weak off the floor, drop one set of chains and perform these while standing on a 2-4” step). Bar Weight = 55%, 10 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Rack Pulls (just below kneecaps for those with lockout problems; mid-shin height for those who are weak off the floor). 3 sets of 5.

Week 6: Medium Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Chains (for those who are weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the chains). Bar Weight = 60%, 8 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Rack Pulls (just below kneecaps for those with lockout problems; mid-shin height for those who are weak off the floor), 3 sets of 4.

Same guidelines as noted above.

Week 7: Very High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls – no chains, from the floor (regardless of your weakness). Bar Weight = 65%, 12 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts, 4 sets of 5 (aim to use weight from week 6).

Same guidelines as noted above.

Here, we’re still imposing a significant amount of fatigue, but we don’t want any spillover to the last deadlift test (end of week 8) prior to the meet. As such, we’ve swapped bands for chains, eliminated accommodating resistance altogether in week 7, and limited the total work done on our assistance deadlift movement (less distance to pull with rack pulls). You’ll still probably feel run-down, but it shouldn’t be as bad as it was after week 3.

Week 8: Low Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No pulling.

Max Effort - MES/D: Last Heavy Pull – Competition Deadlift test (with or without suit, depending on how you pull). As a general rule of thumb, the last heavy pull should be no less than 21 days out from competition. I go with four weeks to err on the side of caution.

Week 9: High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No Pulling.

Max Effort - MES/D: Speed Pulls – No Accommodating Resistance (test with suit, if you wear one). Bar Weight: 55%, 8 sets of 1.

Week 10: Medium Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No Pulling.

Max Effort - MES/D: Speed Pulls – No Accommodating Resistance. Bar Weight: 50%.

Week 11: Very High Volume

No Pulling.

Week 12: Rest End of Week 12

Meet.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of why so many powerlifters place it on the back burner, the fact remains that the pounds accumulated on the deadlift count just as much as those amassed on the squat and bench press. Sure, thousands of lifters have seen great results by avoiding deadlifts, but that’s not to say that there aren’t thousands more who can benefit tremendously from more pulling; there is more than one way to skin a cat. If you’re searching for a new strategy – especially if you notice you’re dragging when lifts 7-9 roll around on meet day – give this template a shot and let me know how it works out for you.

Note: if you're looking for more options for specializing on certain lifts over the course of a powerlifting training cycle, I'd encourage you to check out The Specialization Success Guide, which includes detailed plans to bring along the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

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35 Reasons to Love South Side Gym

A few years ago, Billy Mimnaugh wrote an article for EliteFTS about the South Side Gym in Stratford, Connecticut. In 2004, I got into powerlifting, and last summer, I moved to the southern Connecticut area after finishing my master’s degree at the University of Connecticut. Logically, one of the first things I did was get in with the South Side crew. I was more than happy to make the one hour drive for each training session, as I knew it would help my total. In the past eight months, I’ve gone from a 1,388 total to a 1,532 total at 165 lbs. In essence, I’m a perfect example of what a great training environment can do for someone.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
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