Home Posts tagged "High Performance Training" (Page 3)

Get Show and Go for 50% Off!

I hope you enjoyed the free videos I introduced last week. I got a ton of great feedback from them and I truly appreciate everyone who emailed in and commented on the videos. If you missed them, you can still grab them HERE.
That said, I'm psyched to announce today that until midnight on Friday, October 28, you can get my best-selling product, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better at HALF OFF the normal price.
You can grab your copy for 50% off HERE.
I'm holding this special sale for two reasons. First, it's my way of saying THANK YOU to all the people who took the time to watch my videos and offer their feedback. I know we all have busy schedules with lots of competing demands for our attention, and I appreciate that you take the time to check out my information.
Second, it's World Series time. As you probably know, I am not only a huge baseball fan, but also train over 70 professional baseball players. I like to celebrate the World Series because I love watching it, but also because I know any free time I have now is about to run out, with more and more of our pro guys returning with each passing day. From here on out, it's going to be non-stop training getting these guys ready for the upcoming season. So, I want you to enjoy what's left of my "down-time" now and save 50% off of a product that truly allows you to step inside the world of Cressey Performance.
As another way of saying thank you, I want to up the ante a little more. Because I know how valuable it is to have your questions answered when you don't understand something or want to make sure you are using a program correctly to get the most out of it, I am going to throw in a free LIVE Question and Answer session for anyone who buys my Show and Go program in the next 24 hours. If you grab a copy before Tuesday at midnight, you (and everyone that does the same) will have access to me, and I'll answer your questions.  Off-season training is in full-swing, so I don't have much time and I don't offer this anywhere else, but I always like to reward the people who take action. If you grab a copy today, you won't just get a huge 50% off discount (my lowest discount ever); you'll also get a Live Q&A session with me. All this is on top of our 60-day money back guarantee, if you aren't satisfied with the purchase (trust me; based on the feedback we've received on this program from people all over the world, you won't be disappointed).  Sounds fair, right? Go right here and claim your copy now: Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better. This special 50% off sale on Show and Go ends Friday, October 28 at midnight, but if you want the Live Question and Answer bonus session, you'll need to claim your copy by the end of the day on Tuesday, October 25.
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Experience Doesn’t Come Easily When It Comes to Strength and Conditioning Programs

As I sat down to write this blog, I recalled a quote I heard some time ago, but only with a quick Google search did I discover that it came from Pete Seeger: "Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't." Seeger might be in his 90s and done singing, this quote definitely still resounds - and will continue to do so - in the field of strength and conditioning, even if that wasn't his intention. I think one of the reasons it gets us thinking so much is that there really isn't a lot of fine print to read; the strength and conditioning field is still in its infancy, especially since there was very little research in this area before the 1980s.  And, just when we think we learn something and publish it in the textbook, we discover that it's completely false (the lactic acid debacle was a great example).   Moreover, we're dealing with constantly changing demographics; as examples, obesity is rising dramatically, and early youth sports specialization is destroying kids' bodies and fundamentally changing the way that they develop (examples here and here).

So, it's hard to learn how to do things the right way (or at least head in that direction) when the information wasn't available - and the population to which it applies is constantly changing.  It's like trying to change the tire on a moving car - and doing so without having instructions on how to use the jack in the first place. Moreover, even when the information is out there, we appreciate that no two people respond to the same stimulus in the same way - and my experiences with baseball players with elbow pain serves as a great example.  I've seen dozens of post Tommy John surgery athletes in my career.  Some start throwing before the three-month mark, and others aren't throwing until six months post-op.  Everyone heals differently - and even once they get back to throwing, every guy is unique.  Some have more shoulder stiffness than elbow stiffness after the long layoff, where it might be vice versa for other guys.  Additionally, many post ulnar nerve transposition pitchers have a lot of elbow stiffness when they return to throwing at 6-12 weeks post-op, while others have absolutely zero complications with their return-to-throwing progression.

If the game is changing, and we never really knew what the game was in the first place - and each person is unique, what do we do?

The only thing we can do is draw on personal experience and the lessons that it's provided to us.

To that end, if you're an up-and-comer in the field, you have to look at continuing education as a multi-pronged approach.  You've got to read the textbooks and stay on top of the most up-to-date research, but you also have to be "in the trenches" to test-drive concepts and see how they work. If you're not in the industry - but want to make sure that you're getting the best possible strength and conditioning programs - you need to seek out expert advice from someone who has "been there, done that."  Honestly would you want to be on the table for a surgeon's first surgery? I know I wouldn't. A final option, at the very least, is to educate yourself fully on how to write your own workout routines. That's one reason why I created two free webinars for you: The #1 Reason You Are Not Making Progress and How to Create a Real Strength and Conditioning Program. You can check them both out HERE at absolutely no charge.  I'd just ask that you help spread the word with a Facebook "like" or comment or "Tweet" if you enjoyed what you saw.

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Eliminate Distractions to Gain Muscle, Lose Fat, Get Strong, and Take Over the World

As most of you are probably aware, Hurricane Irene worked its way up the East coast of the U.S. this past weekend and really threw people for a loop with flooding, power outages, fallen trees, and all sorts of damages.  My wife and I got off pretty easily; we just had to go eight hours on Sunday without power - a far cry from what a lot of other folks encountered.  And, our dog, Tank, was entertained all day as he played weatherdog and stared the window to watch the rain.

Oddly enough, those eight hours proved to be wildly productive for me.  Thanks to a fully charged laptop battery, I was able to write a half dozen programs for clients, a blog, and the introduction of a new article for T-Nation.  I read over 100 pages in a book, took a nap, and even went over to Cressey Performance to get a day ahead on my strength training program...in the dark and without music (for the record, this is one more reason free weights are better than machines: no electricity needed).

In short, it was an extremely productive day for me in comparison to typical Sundays in spite of the fact that the weather outside was miserable and it would have been very easy to get antsy from "cabin fever."  What made this day so much more productive than many others for me?

There were zero distractions.

No Facebook and no twitter.  No emails or text messages.  No television or phone calls. No absurdly painful "I feel like I'm shopping at Old Navy" techno playing on Tony's iPod.  It was absolute bliss.

Now, don't get me wrong; human interaction is a huge part of my daily life as a coach, writer, consultant, and barrel-chested freedom fighter.  I don't just sit inside and think of ways to avoid human interaction so that I can be more productive.  However, some peace and quiet sure is nice - and that's why, in fact, that this blog is being written at 6:40AM.  It's an empty house with complete silence.  In a few minutes, I'll head over to the facility - an empty facility with complete silence.  A good hour or so in there before anyone else arrives gives me the leg-up on the day that I need to be productive.

It's taken me 360 words to get to my point, but the take home message is very simple:

If you want to be successful in your
strength and conditioning programs,
get rid of the distractions around you.

I talk to athletes about how everything they do takes them one step closer to their goals - or one step further away.  Each decision they make should be a calculated choice that weighs pros and cons in the context of their goal.

For instance, a training partner can be a great addition to a strength and conditioning program - but it can be an unbelievable failure if that individual is always late for training, gets too chatty between sets, or is an inattentive spotter.   That's a distraction that you have complete control over keeping or removing from your life.  A bad one can destroy you - but a great one can be a huge advantage.

However, most distractions aren't so easy to eliminate.  Family life, work, injuries, car troubles, inclement weather, busy gyms, and a host of other factors can all create stressful distractions that interfere with progress.  The most successful clients I've encountered are the ones who understand how to balance all these competing demands and keep distraction out of the task at hand - whether it's lifting or working on a big project.

Here are my top five suggestions on how to get rid of or manage some of the most common distractions and inconveniences that can sabotage your strength training program.

1. Leave your cell phone in the car - I can say without wavering that this is the single-biggest distraction I see nowadays, as mine rings off the hook on most days.  However, back in March, I went nine days without mine while I was in Costa Rica and the world didn't end.  I'm happy to report that shutting yours off for 90 minutes won't lead to any catastrophes - and you'll get strong in the process.  This sign over the gym entrance at CP says it all.

2. Always have a plan B - If you train in a busy commercial gym at peak hours, you know it can be pretty tough to get access to the exact equipment you need.  Rather than stand around and wait 15-20 minutes for it, your best bet is to go into the session knowing what would be a suitable replacement for each strength exercise.  The chest-supported row is taken? No worries; here's a blog with a few good substitutes: No Chest-Supported Row? No Problem.

Here are a few other posts along these lines that might interest you:

High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 1 (No Access to Dumbbells)
High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 2 (External Rotations without Cables)
High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 3 (Pushup Variations)
High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 4 (More Pushup Variations)

The point is that no matter how busy your gym gets, there is always a plan B.  In fact, post a comment with the most common "shortcoming" you have in terms of equipment access, and I'll devote a future blog to the topic, outlining several potential substitutes for you.  I like a good challenge.

3. When injured, there is always something you can do to get better - To be blunt, there is nothing that bothers me more in this world than people who constantly piss and moan about their circumstances.  I've read that Walt Disney was once so broke that he ate dog food.  Years back, Donald Trump went billions of dollars into combined business and personal debt - and he's certainly turned out okay.  Thomas Edison was yanked out of school at a young age because his teachers thought he was stupid - and he went on to teenage years in the workforce that consisted of being fired multiple times.  Tiger Woods missed a big chunk of time - and an absurd amount of money - when he had his ACL reconstruction.

You, on the other hand, are going to turn into Johnny Raincloud because you have tennis elbow and can't do your curls for a week?  Cry me a river...somewhere else, please.

Put on a happy face and magical things happen.  Figure out what you can do - and then do it.

Quit your complaining; whining is just your way of distracting yourself.

For more on this topic, check out Strength Training Programs: When Did "Just Rest" Become a Viable Option?

4. Have home training options - There are going to be times when life simply gets in the way of what you had planned.  Maybe it's a sick kid at home or inclement weather that prevents you from getting to the gym.  At these times, it's incredibly advantageous to have some equipment (or body weight training templates in mind) that you can use to ensure that your strength and conditioning program doesn't miss a beat.  Some kettlebells can be great, and I'm a big fan of the TRX.  In fact, I liked it so much that I brought mine to Costa Rica, and when combined with sprinting on the beach, we had great training sessions all week.

 5. Communicate with those around you - I think that one of the reason that some folks have issues with distractions with respect to exercise is that they don't clearly relate to those around them that it's important to them.  Most people find time for training instead of making time for it.  If it's important to you, block it off in your schedule and let those around you know that this is the case; they'll be more respectful of your "important time" and let you do your thing unless an emergency comes up.

These five tips are, of course, just a few of the many ways that you can eliminate distractions from your strength and conditioning programs.  What strategies have you found to be useful when it comes to keeping your focus?

Related Posts
Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation - Part 1
Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation - Part 2


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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Understanding and Managing Fatigue

Understanding and Managing Fatigue

Perhaps it’s coincidence, or perhaps the scientific community is finally catching on, but recently, there have been several studies looking at the role of short- and long-term recovery in preventing and rehabilitating injuries.

Here’s a research study that demonstrates relationships among a variety of scheduling and recovery factors and injury rates. The part I found most interesting was that researchers observed that sleeping fewer than six hours the night prior to a competition led to a significant increase in fatigue related injuries.

Additionally, researchers at Stanford recently demonstrated the profoundly positive effect that “sleep extension” has on a variety of performance variables in high-level basketball athletes.

These results, in themselves, aren’t particularly surprising: fatigue impacts performance – whether that’s on the field, or in the rehabilitation realm. Anyone who has ever trained an athlete on a Saturday morning after he’s had a late Friday night, or rehabbed a roofer after he’s completed a 10-hour-workday, will tell you that there are certainly less-than-optimal times to get the work in.

What research like this doesn’t tell us, though, is that not all fatigue is created equal – and I suspect that this is one area where strength and conditioning specialists can “return the favor” to rehabilitation specialists for all that we’ve learned from them over the years. Very simply, the very best strength and conditioning coaches I know are the ones who are masters of managing competing demands, including strength training, mobility drills, soft tissue work, movement training, metabolic conditioning, and sport-specific training. In order to effectively manage all these factors, it’s imperative to understand the different stages of fatigue. On the rehabilitation side of things, every injured athlete likely has some element of fatigue that not only impacted his/her injury mechanism, but will impact the response to a given rehabilitation program.

Over-what? Over-everything!

In their classic review, The Unknown Mechanism of the Overtraining Syndrome, Armstrong and VanHeest discussed the importance of differentiating among overload, over-reaching, overtraining, and the overtraining syndrome (OTS). They defined the terms as follows:

  • Overload – “a planned, systematic, progressive increase in training stimuli that is required for improvements in strength, power, and endurance”
  • Over-reaching – “training that involves a brief period of overload, with inadequate recovery, that exceeds the athlete’s adaptive capacity. This process involves a temporary performance decrement lasting from several days to several weeks.”
  • Overtraining – training that “exceeds over-reaching and results in frank physiological maladaptation(s) and chronically reduced exercise performance. It proceeds from imbalances between training and recovery, exercise and exercise capacity, stress and stress tolerance; training exceeds recovery, exercise exceeds one’s capacity, and stressors exceed one’s stress tolerance.”
  • Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) – “a set of persistent physical and psychological symptoms that occur subsequent to prolonged application of heavy training loads. The critical diagnostic factor is a chronic decrease in performance, not simply the existence of SAS [signs and symptoms].”

Overload is inherent to a successful training process, and over-reaching is actually quite valuable when used appropriately. For instance, in our training programs at Cressey Performance, we generally fluctuate training stress in four-week programs as high (1), medium (2), very high (3), low (4), where the deloading in week 4 allows for adaptation from the fatigue imposed during week 3.

However, over-reaching is far from overtraining – a term that is thrown around far too often among even the most qualified individuals in the world of health and human performance. Over-reaching may be attained in as little as 7-10 days, and remedied in a matter of days or weeks with adequate deloading. Conversely, the process of overtraining must take place for months for the outcome, OTS, to be apparent. Recovery from OTS requires at least several weeks – and more often several months; in other words, you really have to go out of your way to get to overtraining syndrome.

Since high level performance – and even just normal physical health – is a priority, it is imperative that coaches, parents, and athletes recognize the signs and symptoms of over-reaching and overtraining syndrome – and the differences between the two. According to Armstrong and VanHeest, the signs and symptoms of OTS may include:

  • Decreased physical performance
  • General fatigue, malaise, loss of vigor
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability, restlessness, excitability, anxiety
  • Loss of body weight
  • Loss of motivation
  • Lack of mental concentration
  • Feelings of depression

What All These “Overs” Mean to You

Many of these signs and symptoms are shared between over-reaching and OTS, so how do we know the difference? How do we know when to hold back for a day or two (for overload recovery), 7-21 days (over-reaching), or even months (overtraining syndrome)?

Unfortunately, as much as I would like to be able to offer you the magic answer, I can’t do so. The scientific community has yet to agree on a single, highly sensitive diagnostic test to differentiate among the three. In fact, the only diagnostic tests that are universally accurate are those of physical performance; if performance drops off, there must be some degree of accumulated fatigue.

Other measures – such as heart rate, bloodwork, metabolic rate, substrate metabolism, and a host more – are subject to so many factors that they are hardly reliable tests of one’s training status.

As an example, research from Fry et al. had subjects perform ten sets of one repetition on machine squats at 100% of their one-rep maximum for 14 days straight. That’s an absurd volume of high-intensity resistance training, especially in a trained population. You know what, though? The only thing that dropped off was performance; hormone status (as measured by bloodwork) really didn’t change much at all.

Conversely, crush an endurance athlete with volume, and this same bloodwork will look terrible. The take-home point is that it’s a lot harder to “overtrain” on intensity than volume. And that’s where the problem exists when you’re dealing with athletes: just about every sport out there is a blend of volume and intensity. We don’t just train or rehabilitate shotputters or Ironman competitors; we get athletes from soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, and a host of other sports.

So, what is a coach or rehabilitation specialist to do when trying to determine just how much fatigue is present, and what the best course of action is to guarantee an optimal return-to-play as quickly as possible?

In two words: ask questions.

In my opinion, the absolute most important step is to establish communication with athletes and – in this case – patients. Ask about training practices before an injury, sleep patterns, dietary factors, family life, concurrent illness/injury, changes in body weight, and appetite.

These may seem like obvious questions to ask, but we live in a one-size-fits-all world of pre-made templates and rigid systems – and people can fall through the cracks all the time. My experience has been that those most commonly “thrown under the bus” in this regard are the most dedicated athletes forced to train or rehabilitate in a “general health” world. As an example, we had an adult athlete client request a Vitamin D test from a primary care physician last year, and he was turned down because he wasn’t “a post-menopausal female.” As it turned out, he was severely clinically deficient, and normalizing his Vitamin D was a big game-changer for him.

Simply asking the right questions will always help the cause when it comes to determining just how “systemic” what you’re dealing with really is. And, in the process, it gives you an opportunity to show a client or patient how much you care before they even care how much you know.

- Eric Cressey
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Show and Go for Baseball Strength and Conditioning?

In the past few months, I've gotten quite a few inquiries about whether Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better is a good fit for baseball players. While I never wrote the book with the intention of training this athletic population, it can be quickly and easily modified to fit the unique needs of baseball.  The principal changes are going to be: The big differences are going to be: 1. Use more front squatting, and little to no back squatting (we do use a lot of giant cambered bar and safety squat bar variations at Cressey Performance). 2. Eliminate barbell bench pressing and overhead pressing, instead plugging in some dumbbell bench pressing and pushup variations, as seen here and here.

3. In the off-season, we usually do medicine ball work 2-3x/week.  The medicine ball volume is higher in the early/mid-off-season and lower during the late off-season and in-season phases.  For some exercise ideas, you can check out this post of mine, as well as my YouTube Channel.

Usually, this medicine ball training is incorporated before lifting or movement training.

4. I'd add some rhythmic stabilization work 2x/week - as seen here.

All in all, the program is surprisingly versatile for the baseball player.  In the off-season, the 4x/week template works great.  Then, as the late off-season and pre-season get underway, the 3x/week program is a better fit.  In-season, you'll see more position players and relief pitchers using the 2x/week approach, whereas starters can get in 3x/week lifting.  Obviously, the volume may be reduced, but the exercise selection, overall training schedule, training stress fluctuations, core training, and warm-up sequences are all very applicable. It won't be perfect, but it'll be markedly better than any of the cookie cutter or football lifting programs you'll see out there.

For more information, check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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EC Turns 30, So You Save $50

Friday is the 9th anniversary of my 21st birthday my 30th birthday. Normally, I'd write a long post for the occasion, but truthfully, now that I'm getting old and decrepit, I figured I'd better conserve my waning energy and get right to the point. Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better will be on sale for $77 from now through Sunday, May 22th, at midnight. That's $50 off the normal price - and this is a price that was previously only been available during the initial launch of the e-book.  And, it won't be around again for a long time, because 31st birthdays just aren't at all memorable. Plus, it stands to reason that I'll probably spend the entire next decade driving a minivan, changing diapers, wondering where my hair went, and playing awful defense in an old man basketball league while wearing Croakies and high tube socks.  Come to think of it, this might be my last blog post ever.  I guess you'd better purchase a copy of Show and Go as soon as possible to preserve my legacy before I slip into internet obscurity.

You can read loads of testimonials on the Show and Go website, but in case you'd like a few more examples of happy customers, check out these reviews: Show and Go Review: Get Strong and Destroy Clothes Show and Go Review: A Personal Trainer's Experience Review of 8 Months of Show and Go and Maximum Strength Show and Go Training Review: THE Way to Get Strong I'm off to enjoy the last few hours of my 20s, but in the meantime, you can head over to www.ShowandGoTraining.com and take advantage of this great offer on an extremely versatile strength and conditioning program that can be implemented for just about any goal! Remember, this offer expires on Sunday at midnight. Already a Show and Go customer?  I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Review of 8 Months of Show and Go and Maximum Strength

I just received this feedback from a very happy customer and thought I'd share it with you: Hi Eric, I just completed Show and Go last week and tested my lifts yesterday.  I thought you'd like to see the results. Broad jump:  80" to 84" Front box squat:   240 to 265 Bench press:  190 to 210 Trap bar deadlift:  310 to 340 Chin-up 3RM:  220.2 to 234.7 My body composition stayed pretty constant.

Show and Go followed Maximum Strength.  Putting the two together, here are the results from the last 8 months (i.e., pre-Maximum Strength vs. post-Show & Go): Broad jump: 77" to 84" Front box squat: 155 to 265 Bench press: 150 to 210 Trap bar deadlift: 240 to 340 Chin-up 3RM: 197.8 to 234.7. Not a bad way to spend eight months, especially at almost 43 years old and only 170 lbs.  Thanks to you, I can, for the first time in my life, bench press more than my weight, front squat more than 1.5 times my weight, and deadlift almost twice my weight. Thanks for producing these workout plans.  I look forward to following the next program you release. Best, Scott Garland As you can see, Show and Go makes for a great follow-up strength and conditioning program to Maximum Strength.  If you haven't checked out both, I (like Scott) would encourage you to do so! Maximum Strength: Get Your Strongest Body in 16 Weeks with the Ultimate Weight-Training Program Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Trust vs. Self-Reliance

Back in graduate school, an opportunity arose to invest in an up-and-coming company.  At the time, I was swamped with student loans and really didn’t have the $5,000 “buy-in” to spare.   However, I’d always had the “entrepreneurial spirit,” and the company was recommended by a more experienced colleague I trusted (who’d also bought in), so I decided to take the plunge and devote a hefty chunk of my bartending (grad school evening job) income to the cause. Almost a decade later, it’s been a tax deduction for me every April, as the company has lost money year after year.  The lowlight came when the vice president walked off with $80,000 to waste on strippers and cocaine, as us unenthused investors were told.  Apparently, when it comes to venture capital, there are “angel investors” and “poor grad students who accidentally fund guys who like boobs.”  It didn’t take me long to figure out which category I was in (although I did take time to consider that $80K is a lot of $1 bills).

I’ve learned lessons from books, DVDs, seminars, training people from all walks of life, and lifting myself – but throwing $5K down the toilet when I really didn’t have it to spare actually ended up teaching me a valuable lesson: no matter who you trust, the only person you can really count on is yourself. This can really be applied to just about any walk of life – from business (obviously) to personal development.  Every decision you make in life is really a balance between trust and complete self-reliance. When you hire an employee, it’s because you trust that he or she will do a good job with clients and customers at the level you expect.  Otherwise, you’d have to extend hours and do everyone yourself…24/7/365. When you go to church and put a few dollar bills in the collection plate, you trust that everyone who touches that money along the way will, in fact, ensure that it goes to the right place.  Otherwise, you’d have to hand deliver your donation each week. When you go to the doctor, you trust that he or she has been educated properly and is thorough enough to give you a diagnosis that might save your life.  Otherwise, you have to get second opinions – or try to diagnose yourself.

Heck, even as you read this newsletter, you trust that I know my arse from my elbow (and in light of my stellar investment story from above, a lot of you are probably second-guessing yourselves already). Catch my drift?  Your life is really a series of dependencies on others, as much as you might hate to admit it. This applies to your strength and conditioning program in a big way. When you go to the gym, you trust that the ownership of that facility has properly maintained that equipment so that it’s not going to break while you’re using it.  Otherwise, you’d be checking out each piece of equipment meticulously between each set. When you connect with a training partner, you trust that he or she is going to be as motivated as you and push you to be better.  Otherwise, you’re lifting by yourself. When you purchase a fitness product, you trust that the author has the experience necessary to create a program that’ll deliver the results you want in a safe and timely manner. How do you ensure that your strength and conditioning program (or any aspect of your life) doesn’t end up as a series of failed dependencies on others? 1. Review the résumé of anyone you’re considering. When it comes to selecting people to work at our facility, the résumé is something that gets you a foot in the door – much like an academic transcript or SAT score might impact college admissions.  At the end of the day, how you act during an interview and perform on the job is more important to me.  For you, though, if you’re looking to purchase a fitness product, check on the background of who created it.  Are they training people – or have they at least done so in the past?  Or, are these hypothetical programs? 2. Look for a track record of success. This might seem synonymous with checking on a résumé, but it’s actually different.  I’ve known people with tremendous on-paper accomplishments who couldn’t cut it in the real world because these achievements didn’t translate to a different realm, or because their previous success had made them complacent and apathetic.  Sadly, I’ve also met people who have forged résumés altogether.  Do your homework by seeking out testimonials and asking around – and that’s where #3 will come into play.

3.  Surround yourself with as many positive – and insightful – people as possible. Your first impression is usually the correct one, but it never hurts to have additional perspectives from those around you.  While there’s no way you can ever guarantee that all the advice you get is good, consistently reevaluating the relationships you keep can be really valuable – not only in terms of making sure that you have the best advice on hand, but also in determining if you need to get someone’s negativity out of your life.  Not every friendship is going to work out, not every business dealing will be a good fit, and not every book/DVD will appeal to you.  The more you can “hone in” your social circle, the better the decisions you’ll make – whether it’s in avoiding the extra slice of chocolate cake, deciding to go for the PR bench press on a day when you could have slacked off, or buying book “X” instead of DVD “Y.” 4. Look for a way out; there should always be a fall-back option. You can test-drive the care before you buy it.  You can find a new training partner if things aren’t working out.  You can always fire an employee if they aren’t the right fit.  Many products have money-back guarantees. 5. Only delegate within your comfort zone. Learning to delegate was the absolute hardest thing for me when we opened Cressey Performance and I had co-owners and employees for the first time in my life.  It took some time, but now I have people doing everything – billing, scheduling, taxes, maintenance, answering the phone – that doesn’t allow me to effectively leverage my strengths: assessments, program design, and coaching.  Comfort in this regard doesn’t magically happen; it’s something that develops over time. To bring this lesson to a close, look back at my botched investment and apply these five principles to it. I didn’t even know the president or vice president of the company, and therefore never checked their résumés (#1).  They’d never run a business before and had no track record of success (#2).  Rather than running my idea by multiple people, I went on the basis of one colleague – who was more of an acquaintance, anyway (#3).  There was no fall-back option, so with this being my first investment opportunity, I would have been smarter to go with something more low-risk, such as investing in stocks/bonds rather than a brand new company (#4). I instantly delegated everything, and to people I didn’t even know!  There was no easing into it (#5). I deserved to lose my money; I was an idiot. To take the guesswork out of your programming, check out my new program, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel , and Move Better.  I promise, you can trust me – and there’s a money-back guarantee.

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Corrective Exercise: Why Stiffness Can Be a Good Thing

With reference to strength and conditioning programs, the adjective "stiff" is generally perceived to be a bad thing, as folks mean it in a general sense.  In other words, you seem "locked up" and don't move well. Taken more literally and applied to specific joints, stiffness can be a very good thing.  A problem only exists if someone is excessively stiff - especially in relation to adjacent joints.  If someone has the right amount of stiffness to prevent movement at a segment when desired, then you would simply say that it's "stable."  That doesn't sound too bad, does it? This is generally a very confusing topic, so I'll use some examples to illustrate the concept. Example #1: Reducing kyphosis. Take your buddy - we'll call him Lurch - who sits at a desk all day long.  He's got a horrible Quasimodo posture, and he comes to your for help with improving it.  You know that his thoracic spine is stuck in flexion and needs to be unlocked, so you're obviously going to give him some thoracic spine mobility drills.  That's a no brainer.

However, would you say that Lurch would make better progress correcting bad posture with those drills alone, or if he combines those drills with some deadlifting, horizontal pulling strength exercises, and a more extended thoracic spine posture during the day?  Of course Lurch would do much better with those additions - but why? All those additions increased stiffness. With the thoracic erectors adequately stiff relative to the cervical erectors (which create forward head posture when too stiff) and lumbar erectors (create lordosis when too stiff), there is something to "hold" these changes in place.  If you're just doing the thoracic spine mobilizations, you're just transiently modifying stiffness (increasing tolerance to stretch) - NOT increasing range of motion!

You know what else is funny?  In 99% of cases like this, you'll also see an improvement in glenohumeral range of motion (both transiently and chronically).  Mobilize a thoracic spine and it's easier to create stiffness in the appropriate scapular stabilizers.  When the peri-scapular muscles are adequately stiff, the glenohumeral joint can move more freely.  It's all about understanding the joint-by-joint theory; mobility and stability alternate. Example #2: The guy who can squat deep with crazy stiff hip flexors. A few years ago, one of our interns demonstrated the single-worst Thomas Test I've ever seen.  In this assessment, which looks at hip flexor length, a "good" test would have the bottom leg flat on the table with no deviation to the side.  In the image below (recreated by another intern), the position observed would be indicative of shortness or stiffness in the rectus femoris and/or psoas (depending on modifying tests):

In the case to which I'm referring, though, our intern was about twice as bad as what you just saw.  He might very well have had barnacles growing on his rectus femoris, from what I could tell.  But you know what?  He stood up right after that test and showed me one of the "crispest" barefoot overhead squats I've ever seen.

About an hour later, I watched him front squat 405 to depth with a perfectly neutral spine.  So what gives?  I mean, there's no way a guy with hip flexors that stiff (or short) should be able to squat without pitching forward, right?

Wrong.  He made up for it with crazy stiffness in his posterior hip musculature and outstanding core stability (adequate stiffness).  This stiffness enables him to tap in to hip mobility that you wouldn't think is there.

Is this a guy that'd still need to focus on tissue length and quality of the hip flexors?  Absolutely - because I'd expect him to rip a hole in one of them the second he went to sprint, or he might wind up with anterior knee pain eventually.

Does that mean that squatting isn't the best thing for him at the time, even if he can't do it?  Not necessarily, as it is a pattern that you don't want to lose, it's a key part of him maintaining a training effect, and because you want him to feel what it's like to squat with less anterior hip stiffness as he works to improve his hip mobility (rather than just throw him into the fire with "new hips" down the road).

These are just two examples; you can actually find examples of "good stiffness" all over the body.  So, as you can imagine, this isn't just limited to corrective exercise programs; it's also applicable to strength and conditioning programs for healthy individuals.  Effective programs implement mobility exercises and self myofascial release to transiently reduce stiffness where it's excessive, and strength exercises to stiffen segments that are unstable.  Effectively, you teach the body how to move correctly - and then load it up to work to make that education permanent.

Want to take the guesswork out of your strength and conditioning programming?  Check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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Get Strong by Learning from My Strength and Conditioning Mistakes

We bought our dog, Tank, in October of 2010 – and he’s since gone on to be not only man’s best friend around the house, but also an integral (and entertaining) part of the Cressey Sports Performance experience, as he comes to the gym with me just about every day.

In spite of Tank’s affinity for flashing people, he managed to win adoration of the family of one of our CP athletes to the point that they decided they wanted to get a cream puggle just like him.  Having just spent months housetraining him and trying to get him to sleep through the night, my wife and I had plenty of suggestions for these folks to avoid making the mistakes we made.  I mean, we never told him to eat paint chips, but puppies will be puppies, you know?

Anyway, that family is now all settled with their puppy, and it got me to thinking about the importance of learning from others’ mistakes is in the world of strength and conditioning programs.  If I can help out one puppy owner, I might as well help out the 180,000 unique visitors on this website each month!  With that in mind, here are five strength and conditioning mistakes I corrected that have made a big difference for me:

1. Eating like a pansy in the post-training window – If you’re an up-and-coming lifter or athlete who can benefit from increasing muscle mass (and I definitely was), the post-workout period is not a time when you can skimp on calories.  I really did not start making great progress until I was getting in over a thousand calories between my post-training shake and the meal that took place an hour later – and that was on the light side compared to what I’ve seen with some other guys. I can’t think of many things that drive me crazier than seeing one of our athletes finish a training session – and then sit around in the office for 2-3 hours without eating anything.  I love having them hang out at the gym, but I just want them to do it with calories!

2. Not training for strength soon enough – I'm going to dumb getting bigger down as much as I can, yet still keep it mathematical. You've got to do "muscular damage" and then rebuild.  If you don't do work, you don't get damage. Work = Force x Distance

Unless you plan on growing for the rest of your life (or find magical ways to keep adding range of motion to exercises), the easiest way to positively impact the amount of work you do is to apply more force - or be stronger. To that end, I'll make a bold statement here: for the first two years of lifting, your primary goal should simply be to add weight to the bar (provided you can do so in good technique and without pain).  As long as we're talking about compound strength exercises, you'll be very pleased with the results. We have novice lifters at Cressey Performance who grow like weeds in their first two years of training with us - and I can't say that I've ever had someone ask me about "the pump."  I wish I'd had someone to tell me to shut up when I asked about it when I was 18!

3. Spending too much time doing non-essentials – This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous observation.  I really had no place doing curls, triceps extensions, and other isolation exercises when I hadn’t even come close to putting up good numbers on the important strength exercises. It kept me in the gym too long and interfered with my recovery on the really important stuff. The funny thing is that now that I have gotten a lot stronger, I really don’t have interest in doing much of the isolation stuff anymore – because I realize that the core strength exercises are the ones that really helped me progress.

4. Not being more athletic with my energy systems work – Growing up, I was an avid soccer and tennis player, and as a result of all my time on the field/court, I was reasonably quick and good with changes of direction.  When my early 20s rolled around, I took a step back from those sports to pursue strength training "full time."  A few years later, I was invited to play in a charity basketball game against a bunch of at-the-time Patriots players like Ellis Hobbs, Reche Caldwell, Pierre Woods, and Logan Mankins (among others).  Don't let anyone tell you that NFL guys can't play hoops, because these guys mopped the floor with us. The outcome wasn't altogether surprising, but one thing that did open my eyes was how I just didn't feel as athletic as I used to be in spite of the fact that I'd gotten a lot stronger as compared to my high school years.  I was putting force into the ground, but I wasn't applying it quickly - and I wasn't doing it in planes of motion in which I was comfortable.  Not surprisingly, most of my energy systems work at the time (which really wasn't much) was being done on machines: ellipticals, versa-climbers, rowers, and bikes.  I committed to cutting back on mindless repetitive motion cardio right away - and since then, just about all my energy systems work has been sprinting, strongman-type medleys, change of direction work, slideboard work, and medicine ball circuits (plus just a small amount of Airdyne work). The end result?  A 37.2-inch vertical jump - more than 12 inches better than I was back at the time, and I'm at a higher body weight and just as lean as when I was doing all that "gerbil cardio."  More importantly, I feel a ton more athletic - and I'm more likely to do stupid things for others' amusement around the gym.

5. Not finding a good training crew earlier – I’ve been fortunate to lift with some excellent training partners, from my days on-campus at the University of Connecticut, to South Side Gym, to the guys I lift with at Cressey Performance nowadays.  Before that, though, I was flying solo for quite some time.  Let me tell you: good training partners make a HUGE difference.  They pick you up when you’re dragging, help you select weights, provide spots/handoffs, and create an awesome social atmosphere that actually helps training progress. “Going it alone” doesn’t just refer to having training partners with whom you can lift, though.  It also refers to having professional resources to whom you can turn – whether it’s a massage therapist when your elbows get cranky from all the gripping you do, or someone to help you out with your strength and conditioning programs.  I’m not going to lie: I did some terrible programs back in the day when I didn’t know any better.  If I’d had an unbiased party helping me out, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. That’s one reason why I created The High Performance Handbook.

On one hand, it takes the guesswork out of training by providing the actual strength and conditioning programs as well as an extensive video database to help with technique on all the mobility and strength exercises.  On the other hand, though, I designed it so that it would give folks a lot of wiggle room when it comes to adapting it to their unique goals and needs.  It starts with an easy-to-apply assessment you can use to determine your unique needs.  From there, you've got 4x/week, 3x/week, and 2x/week strength training programs; different supplemental conditioning options; and a unique mobility warm-up for every month of the program.  Problems solved. Click here to learn more about The High Performance Handbook. What were some of your biggest strength and conditioning mistakes?  Share them in the comments section below and you might just help someone from repeating them!

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