Home Posts tagged "High Performance Training" (Page 4)

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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Show and Go Review: Get Strong and Destroy Clothes

I just received this review from a happy customer of Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better (and grow out of every single piece of clothing you own): Eric, Thought I'd add to your pile of stories about my experience with Show and Go. As a 30 year-old non-athlete who has never truly followed a complete training program, Show and Go really challenged me, brought some great results, and has turned me into a huge snob in the gym (my rest periods are generally spent grimacing at peoples' form and judging them for their partial range movements/exercise choices). The biggest challenge for me was adapting to the longer workouts/more volume/new exercises. As I reached the end of the program I certainly noticed I had adapted well.

I did not test my 1RM before starting, but I had good estimates and without a doubt I am much stronger and much more confident in my body to handle heavier loads. My results: 1RM Deadlift  - 380 (approx. +60lbs) 1RM Front Squat - 245 (approx +55lbs) 1RM Bench Press - 260 (approx +30lbs) Other stats of note: - Gained about 9lbs even though I know I don't eat enough - Literally ripped the back of 5 pairs of pants bending over or sitting down (and grew out of most of the rest of them) - Grew out of almost all my suits (pants and jackets) I'll be coming back to Cressey Performance in the next few weeks to get a new program in person and can't wait. Hopefully my legs/butt will settle down and stop growing out of pants. It's getting to be an expensive hobby for someone who has to dress up for work everyday. Thanks for this program. It was what I needed and it worked. Your blog and Tony's blog helped with continued motivation and instruction throughout. You guys have a good thing going. Looking forward to what's next. Zach Stanley Whether you're a beginner or a veteran lifter, I'd encourage you to check out the program that had Zach splitting pants and moving big weights: Show and Go. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique video!
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Strength Training Programs: How Many Sets and Reps? – Part 2

In today's post, we've got the second half of a Q&A response regarding how to determine the optimal number of sets and reps for strength exercises.  In case you missed the first installment, be sure to check out Strength Training Programs: How Many Sets and Reps - Part 1.  We pick up with factors 7-13:

7. Whether You’re Trying to Correct Muscle Imbalances – In Part 1 (Bulletpoint 4) of my five-part Correcting Bad Posture series, I talked about how I like to use a 2:1 pull-to-pushing ratio with those who have significant upper body muscle imbalances.  In addition to upping the sets, you can also use higher rep schemes.  So, something like this would be an easy way to accumulate more volume:

A1) Chest-Supported Row - Neutral Grip: 4x8
A2) Low Incline Barbell Press: 3x6

Effectively, you're not only getting more total sets in favor of "postural balance;" you're also getting more reps per set.

8. How Neurally Efficient a Client/Athlete Is – Some athletes – especially those who tend to be of a more slow-twitch muscle fiber predominance – always seem to need to get more sets in on their strength exercises.  This is impacted in a lot of them by a previous history of endurance training – whether it’s high school soccer or a dedicated running career – that made them less efficient at tapping in to high threshold motor units.  The same holds true for female athletes; they always seem to need a little extra volume on strength exercises; it’s almost as if they can’t ramp up to a max as quickly as men.  I don't think you necessarily need to increase reps per set, but definitely ought to consider adding an additional set or two.

9. Whether You’re Trying to Achieve a Metabolic Training Benefit – Some programs use a concept called metabolic resistance training to improve cardiovascular conditioning and increase energy expenditure so that you can burn fat faster. Generally, in programs like these, you’ll need more sets and higher reps to elicit this training effect.

10. Whether You’re Dealing with a Post-Injury Client – In these folks, you want to keep the sets and reps down and gradually ease them back in to things.  So, while a “normal” client might be fluctuating up and down to impose and decrease training stress, respectively, an post-injury client would be gradually increasing the sets and reps to match his/her capacity for loading at a particular time.

That said, you have to be cognizant of giving them sufficient volume to maintain a training effect and keep them from going insane.  So, using the example of someone with shoulder pain, you might have to cut back on pressing movements, but you can really bump up the volume on horizontal pulling sets and reps.

11. What Else You're Doing - The base mesocycle of the Smolov Squat Program goes like this:

Monday: 4x9
Wednesday: 5x7
Friday: 7x5
Saturday: 10x3

Sure, this is a ton of work (and very specific work at that), but quite a few lifters have used it with excellent success.  You know what, though?  Try adding a lot of extra sets and reps for "other stuff" and you'll fail...miserably.  You can't specialize on everything all at once.  If sets and reps go up in one facet of your strength and conditioning program, they have to come down somewhere else.

12. Whether Soreness is of Concern - With our in-season athletes, we want to avoid soreness at all costs.  The easiest way to do this is to avoid changing strength exercises, but this isn't really feasible, as most athletes will get sick and tired of doing the same thing over and over again all season.  So, we need to be careful about strategically substituting new strength exercises during in-season training.  One way to make it go smoothly is to simply keep the sets and reps down in the first round through a new training program.  Let's say that we were doing front squats in-season.  We'd probably go something like this:

Week 1: 1x3 reps
Week 2: 3x3 reps
Week 3: 3x3 reps
Week 4: 2x3 reps (deload)

This leads me to my final point...

13. Whether or Not an Athlete is In-Season - If an athlete is in-season, less is more.  I prefer to have our athletes leave the gym feeling refreshed after their in-season training sessions - so they might be completely finished with a lift after only 8-10 sets of strength exercises in session.  You can get in more sets and reps during the off-season.

That wraps up the primary considerations that come to mind for determining the sets and reps in a strength training program.  Of course, there are many more to consider.  A closing suggestion I'd add is to try to review as many different programs by various coaches as possible. Chances are that you'll pick up some important trends that will help you to write your own programs.

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Strength Training Programs: How Many Sets and Reps? – Part 1

Q: I know this is a loaded question with hours upon hours of answers, but I'm trying to make some sense about the different kinds of ways/philosophies involved in writing strength and conditioning programs. I have read different articles and chapters in books that discuss program development, looked at programs at my current job, and can write a basic one for a new athlete. It's not the exercises; I'm familiar with plenty and love seeing something new. My problems come more with the sets and reps and when they change and why; I can’t seem to map out the actual progression of the program.

What philosophies, if one, do you follow and what basic rules do you find to be the most important when determining the sets and reps?

A: This is a loaded question!  The best way to get better with programming is simply to write a ton of programs and see what works and what doesn't.  However, with respect to your specific questions on sets and reps, what you choose to utilize is going to be dictated by:

1. The duration of a session - You won't be able to do 6 sets of 4 reps if you only have an client/athlete for an hour and want to accomplish other things.  This is, in particular, a big issue in collegiate strength and conditioning programs because the NCAA allows only limited number of hours per week with athletes, and sport coaches and strength and conditioning coaches have to share this time.  Additionally, it's a challenge for personal trainers in private training set-ups where clients may train in 30-, 45-, or 60-minute blocks.

I've written several times in the past about how I would never allow our business model to dictate our training model - and this sets and reps question is one reason why.  At Cressey Sports Performance, we do all semi-private training, which allows for sliding starts and finishes.  It allows us to get in all the work we need to do with clients - regardless of the sets and reps in question.  Likewise, as you'll see in the rest of this two-part series, you'll appreciate that it's why we don't have one program standardized for everyone on the dry erase board; every single CSP client has a unique program  because they all have unique needs.

2. Competing demands - The more variety (plyos, conditioning, medicine ball work, etc) that you want to add to a program, the less volume you'll be able to do on strength training.  We have limited time and recovery capacity, so we can't just keep adding all the time.

For me, a good example is what happens over the course of the baseball off-season.  Lifting volume is high when they get back, throwing is a no-go, movement training is 2x/week, and medicine ball is light.  After the first month, medicine ball work goes up, lifting comes down a bit.

Then, at the start of January, medicine ball and lifting volume comes back down and throwing volume increases.  We then get rid of medicine ball work almost altogether and go to 3x/week movement training as the season approaches, throwing intensifies, and guys do more hitting.  So, it doesn't just depend on the exercises; it depends on the big picture.

A great follow-up read to this point would be my post, Weight Training Programs: You Can’t Just Keep Adding.

3. Exercise selection - If you're doing more sets, you'll want to do it on "money" exercises like deadlifts and not curls, etc.  Moreover, certain exercises lend themselves better to higher reps than others.  For instance, we never front squat anyone over six reps, because technical breakdown often occurs with fatigue.  You also wouldn’t want to do cleans for sets of 15!

Usually, it’s also good to just “call it” on a particular exercise and move on to the next if someone has already dropped the weight on subsequent sets and form continues to deteriorate.  That energy is better spent on different exercises where technique can remain perfect even in the presence of fatigue.

4. Training age - As a general rule of thumb, the more experienced they are, the more sets and FEWER reps they'll need.  At this point in my training career, I just won't get strong on sets of five. Here's another good follow-up read: Why I Don't Like the 5x5 Workout.

Conversely, beginners generally need more sets and reps to pick up on things.  That doesn’t mean that you should just do three sets of 15 reps on everything with a novice, though.  I find myself teaching squat and deadlift variations with four sets of five reps quite a bit; the load, however, is light enough that the lifter could usually do 10-12 reps.  In other words, it’s just technique practice.

5. The Training Goal and Client/Athlete in Question – While taking heavy singles over 90% of one’s 1-rep max may be ideal for helping folks get strong, working at such a high percentage in some populations warps the risk: reward circumstances. Whether it’s older folks, those with injuries, or athletes who have a lot more to lose by getting hurt than they have to gain by adding five pounds to their squat, you have to take each individual situation into consideration.  I always remind people that we lift weights to improve quality of life, not just so that we can talk about how heavy the weights we lifted were.

6. Whether You Want to Impose or Remove Fatigue – In a “loading” week, volume is going to be higher.  If you’re deloading, though, that volume is going to be reduced.  Aside from beginner strength training programs, volume should never be the same over several weeks in a row.  I discuss several deloading strategies in my e-book, The Art of the Deload.

I’ll be back in a tomorrow with more factors that influence the sets and reps in a strength training program.  In the meantime, if you're looking for a comprehensive strength and conditioning program to take all the guesswork out of things for you, check out The High Performance Handbook.

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Shoulder Mobility Drills: Scapular Wall Slides vs. Doorway Slides

The other day, I received an email from a Show and Go customer who noticed that the scapular wall slide and the doorway slide were two similar, but not identical shoulder mobility drills included in the program.  He asked if I could talk a bit more about the differences between the two - and when to use both. First, let's have a look at the two exercises.  Here's the scapular wall slide:

And, here's the doorway slide:

As the voice-over on the video above notes, the scapular wall slide is an acceptable fit for just about any workout routine.  The only exceptions would be those who have upper extremity pain with overhead motions (rotator cuff tears, etc.).

However, we can utilize the doorway slide in certain folks to get to where we want to be a bit faster.  More specifically, these folks are the ones who are REALLY immobile in their upper extremity and wouldn't even be able to get their arms back even close to the wall on the wall slides.  So, in addition to not making them feel bad about their "tight shoulders", the doorway slide actually allows us to use the doorway as a stretching implement to get a gentle stretch across the anterior shoulder girdle (predominantly pec major and minor).  There are three very important coaching points:

1. Don't let the head poke forward, as a forward head posture is simply a substitution for not retracting/depressing the scapulae or horizontally adducting the humerus.

2. Don't crank too aggressively on the shoulders; it should be a subtle stretch.  And, it shouldn't be used with those (particularly overhead throwing athletes) who already have increased external rotation and, in turn, more anterior laxity.

3. Make sure to focus on pulling the shoulder blades down and back as the elbows are lowered.  You shouldn't have movement of the humerus without movement of the scapula.

For more shoulder mobility drills and the rationale for them, I'd encourage you to check out our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

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Weight Training Programs: You Can’t Just Keep Adding

Can I just add some sets and reps of direct arm work?

How about cardio?  Would a few 30 minutes interval training sessions work?

What if I did extra rotator cuff stuff every day?  Just a little tubing, you know?

I’m going to add two extra days of calves, abs, and forearms.  It shouldn’t be a problem, right?

These are just a few of the common questions I receive from people for whom I write strength training programs (plus all the other components of a comprehensive program).  And, it's these kind of questions that make me appreciate just how challenging it is to teach someone how to effectively write strength and conditioning programs - and why everyone gets all flustered when they first start writing training plans.

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Very simply, most people don't understand the concept of competing demands.  Everybody wants to add something to their weight training program - but not everyone is willing to take something away in order to do so.

How many elite powerlifters or Olympic lifters do you know who regularly do interval training as part of their quest to get strong?

How many elite triathletes do you know who just want to add a few sets of biceps curls along the road to improving endurance performance?

The answer is, of course, none.  And, it's because - whether they appreciated it or not - these high-level athletes were effectively managing competing demands.

In some cases, different fitness qualities compete with one another; an example would be extensive aerobic training while trying to increase strength.  You can't get strong quickly if you're doing hours of cardio each week.  Somewhat similarly, in an overhead throwing population, it's challenging to regain shoulder internal rotation and flexion range of motion (ROM) and pec minor length when an athlete is throwing - so you have to do your best to get the ROM during down-time in their training year.

In other cases, you may have multiple qualities that contribute to an overall training effect, but you can't prioritize all of them at once.  For example, my professional baseball clients need a host of different qualities to be successful, but the body has limited recovery capacity, so their training programs have to target their most readily apparent weaknesses - and do so at the right time of year.  We cut back on the medicine ball and upper body strength exercises and volume when their throwing volume increases.

And, we can't do as much lower body strength exercises when guys are doing more sprinting and change-of-direction work.  Stress is stress, so you have to apply it judiciously.

Taking this into consideration, I think that one of the best drills for someone looking to get better at writing programs is to take a full-on comprehensive weight training program with supplemental conditioning/movement training where someone is training 6x/week - and then cut it back to 3x/week.  Assume that there is a whole lot of of "other" stress in this athlete/client's life - whether it's work, illness, family issues, or just being an in-season athlete - and figure out how to scale a program back in order to make it productive and safe for that individual.

Lots of factors have to be taken into account: the volume and intensity that individual can handle, how long each session can last, and what specific factors one needs to address most.  A good example to check out would be the differences between the 4x/week, 3x/week, and 2x/week weight training programs (and accompanying optional supplemental sessions) in The High Performance Handbook.

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There are loads of factors you have to take into account when you write a comprehensive training plan - from the weight training program, to soft tissue work, to mobility work, to movement training, to energy systems training.  The most important consideration, though, is how they all fit together synergistically to make the program as a whole effective.

So, try the challenge I listed above and see how you do; I think you'll find that it's a lot harder to subtract than it is to add to your weight training programs.

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High Performance Training Without the Equipment: 6 More Pushup Variations

In yesterday's post, I outlined the importance of including pushup variations in your strength training program and introduced five ways to progress this basic exercise. Today, I've got six more pushup variations for you. Pushup Variation #6: Yoga Pushups I like Yoga pushups not because they are a subtle increase in difficulty over a regular pushup, but because they afford some extra mobility benefits at the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine.  They're a great addition to a dynamic warm-up.

Pushup Variation #7: Spiderman Pushups While it increases the difficulty a bit more than a yoga pushup, the spiderman pushup still affords some great hip mobility benefits.

One word of caution, though; it's my experience that folks tend to "slip" into a forward head posture more often with the spiderman pushup than any other pushup variation, so make sure that you don't let the head poke forward as the elevated leg's hip goes into flexion and abduction. Pushup Variation #8: Slideboard Pushup Variations We utilize the slideboard a ton at Cressey Performance - and pushups are no exception.  Two of our favorites are slideboard pushups with band and slideboard bodysaw pushups. In the case of the former, we take a 1/2" band and wrap it around the wrists.  This band wants to pull you into internal rotation and horizontal adduction at the shoulder, so you have to activate the posterior rotator cuff and scapular retractors to hold the ideal pushup position.

The bodysaw pushups really take things up a notch on the difficulty scale, as they not only make the hand positioning dynamic, but also increase the anti-extension core challenge.

Pushup Variation #9: Pushup Iso Hold w/Perturbations In our DVD set, Optimal Shoulder Performance, Mike Reinold and I spend quite a bit of time talking about the value of rhythmic stabilization drills to train the true function of the rotator cuff.  I'm also a big fan of pushup isometric holds to teach proper scapular positioning and educate athletes on ideal posture.  In the 1-leg pushup iso hold with perturbations, we get all those benefits - plus some added instability training because there are only three points of contact with the ground.

Pushup Variation #10: TRX Pushups The TRX is probably the most versatile piece of equipment out there other than the barbell and the functional trainer - and one of its most basic uses is pushup variations.

As I alluded to in my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, the instability created by the TRX likely allows you to maintain muscle activation in the upper extremity even though less loading is needed.  This means that when performed correctly, TRX pushups may have a place in a return-to-function protocol after rehab, or even simply as a deloading strategy in a strength and conditioning program.

For more information, check out the Fitness Anywhere website.

Pushup Variation #11: T-Pushups Last, but certainly not least, we have the T-Pushup.  This pushup variation is great because it not only involves constant changing of the points of stability, but also because it requires thoracic spine rotation.  To increase the challenge, you can hold dumbbells in your hands.

I've listed 11 variations in the past two posts, but I know that a lot of you out there have some innovative pushup variations to suggest as well.  Let's hear 'em in the comment section!

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High Performance Training without the Equipment: 5 Pushup Variations

I've written several times in the past about how it's important to not only balance your upper body pushing and pulling exercises, but also make sure that you have a similar volume of open- and closed-chain exercises in the pushing component.  In other words, you need to have plenty of pushup variations to "cancel out" all  the bench pressing variations in your strength training program.

There's a problem, though; most of you can do a ton of pushups, and are in need of something more challenging that can take this beyond simply a warm-up.  With that in mind, I wanted to use today's post to highlight some pushup variations we use quite frequently at Cressey Performance.  While a few might require some of the cooler amenities (e.g., chains, slideboard) we've got at our fingertips, most are drills you'll be able to perform without them.  Without further ado, here are five pushup variations to throw some variety in your strength and conditioning program. Pushup Variations #1 and #2: Feet Elevated and Band Resisted Pushups I combine these two not only because they were both in the same video that I'd taken for Show and Go, but also because they represent two of the most convenient solutions for the typical lifter. Elevating the feet not only makes the movement a bit more challenging from an anti-extension core training perspective, but it also increases activity of the serratus anterior, as I wrote HERE.  Believe it or not, while this modification makes the movement harder as a whole, it can often take away symptoms completely in some folks with shoulder pain. In the case of the band-resisted pushup variation, the resistance accommodates the strength curve.  In other words, the band deloads at the bottom of the movement where you're the weakest, and picks up resistance as you go further up toward the top of the movement, where you're the strongest.

Pushup Variation #3: Chain Pushups

Okay, this one will require you to have some equipment, but trust me when I say that if you do decide to get some for your home gym set-up, you'll use them over and over again - and not just for pushup variations!  As with the bands progression above, chain pushups are a form of accommodating resistance; the load is heavier where you're strongest.  I also like chains because they allow you to quickly and easily modify resistance on the fly for drop sets or to simply make the exercise easier as a set progresses.  And, they can be pretty challenging:

Let's assume conservatively that you're lifting 60% of your body weight with a pushup.  At 190 pounds, that's 114 pounds for me.  When you combine it with 10 chains at 15 pounds each, you're looking at about 264 pounds of resistance.  Who says you can't load up a pushup?

Pushup Variation #4: 1-leg Pushup Variations

One quick and easy way to make any exercise harder is to reduce the number of ground contact points.  On a normal pushup, you have four (both hands and feet).  Simply taking one foot off the floor not only increases the loading on the upper body, but also imposes a subtle anti-rotation challenge to your core.  You can do it feet-elevated, too:

Of course, you can combine the 1-leg pushup with external loading, too:

Pushup Variation #5: 1-arm Push-ups

Sticking with the theme of reducing the numbers of points of stability, you can go to one-arm pushup variations as well.  You don't have to be diesel enough to do these from the floor to get the benefits, though; you can simply press from a pin in a power rack.

As you get stronger and more comfortable with the movement, you can move the pin down to increase the challenge.

Start thinking about how you can integrate these in your strength training program, and I'll be back soon with five more pushup variations you can use to take things even further.

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Show and Go Review: A Personal Trainer’s Experience

I received this Show and Go Review via email the other day and thought I'd share it with those of you who might be on the fence about whether or not this product is a good fit for you. "I just read your recent blog post in which you mentioned sending Show and Go testimonials.  Well...it would be a travesty if I didn't give you a shout out. "I'm a personal trainer myself.  And after over 23 years of training myself and 16 years of training others, to say I grow "bored" with conventional weight training programs would be an understatement.  I first trained to augment sport (football), then I got into powerlifting, and really became addicted to it when I started bodybuilding.  I competed for eight years in the sport and did very well.  But...I outgrew it.  Yes...I was bored. "I, like many others that I train, look to other sources to not only motivate me in my own training (mentally more than physically), but also to broaden my horizons as a trainer.  That is what led me to purchase your Show & Go program.  I have to say, Eric, it is the most comprehensive, integrated program I have ever used.  From the warm-ups, to the strength exercises, to the stretching, to the cardio enhancement....my strength, flexibility, conditioning, and muscularity all improved ten-fold.  And my bodyfat level went noticeably down without me tweaking my normal diet.  I even had nagging shoulder and low back pain that inhibited me from doing certain movements that are now gone.  I was able to deadlift weight I haven't been able to use since my powerlifting days.  Plus, a couple of the core movements you include are ones I have never seen or done and I loved them!  I now use many of them with my own clients. "One last thing to note...I very rarely get through a 16 week program.  I tend to grow bored and need a different style of training.  That never happened.  Not only that...I am starting a second go-round this week of it with a few of my own personal tweaks to it.    Great product, Eric!  Thank you so much!" James Cipriani - CFT, CSCS, NS Brookfield, CT

Click here to check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better for yourself.

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High Performance Training without the Equipment: Installment 2

It goes without saying that some of the absolute posterior rotator cuff exercises are cable external rotation variations.

Unfortunately - as you may have inferred from the title of this post - not everyone has access to a cable column or functional trainer where exercises like this can be performed.  To that end, I thought I'd devote today's post to a few exercises one can substitute to get a very similar training effect without cable access.

Option 1: Elbow-Supported DB External Rotation

This movement parallels that of the cable option, but all you need is a dumbbell and something to prop your upper arm.  The only downside is that the resistance just isn't as "continuous" throughout the range of motion - but it's still a good option.

Options 2 and 3: Horizontal Abduction Variations

While the recruitment patterns aren't going to be exactly the same, it's safe to say that you're getting almost all the same benefits when you do horizontal abduction work as with true external rotation work (and likely a bit extra scapular stabilization benefits).  Two variations I like:

Prone Horizontal Abduction off Table

Side-Lying Horizontal Abduction (I like to load this one up more eccentrically and focus on really controlling the load on the way down)

Option 4: Side-Lying External Rotations - arm abducted 30 degrees

This movement might not be the most "specific" of all rotator cuff exercises because of the position in which it occurs, but it does give you the best posterior cuff EMG of just about any drill.  We use it a ton, especially in those who may have pain with positions requiring more shoulder elevation.

These drills are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the modifications you can use - and, indeed, what should comprise a comprehensive shoulder health program.  However, they should be enough to help you work around the lack of a cable in your resistance training arsenal.

For more information, check out our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

Related Posts

High Performance Training without the Equipment: Installment 1 Clearing up the Rotator Cuff Controversy

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