Home Posts tagged "Interviews"

Coyle on Culture: An Interview with Best-Selling Author Daniel Coyle

Back in March of 2016, I was visiting the Cleveland Indians Spring Training complex. While former Cressey Sports Performance pitching coordinator (and current Indians assistant director of player development) Matt Blake was giving me the tour of the complex, he asked me if I knew Dan Coyle.

"The Talent Code author? I love that book."

"Yeah, he's spending some time observing our culture as he prepares for his new book. Great guy; want to meet him?"

For the next half hour, I chatted with Dan - and realized that in addition to being a great guy (as promised!), he also had some tremendously insightful perspectives on building a great culture in business, sports, and beyond. When the book finally came out in January, I was fortunate to get an advanced copy - and absolutely loved it. And, it made me consider a lot of ways that we could work to positively impact our culture at Cressey Sports Performance. To that end, I asked Dan if he'd be willing to answer a few questions for the blog so that my readers can get a taste of what The Culture Code brings to the table.

EC: Let’s start with origins of this book. What drove your interest in exploring culture further?

It all started with a tennis ball. A few years back, I was visiting Spartak, a small Russian tennis club that has produced more top women players than the entire United States. I was focused on learning how they developed individual talent (the research later turned into The Talent Code), but while I was there I witnessed a remarkable moment. Partway through a busy day, the door squeaks open and a new player, a girl of about ten, shows up. It's her first day. The head coach, an imposing woman named Larisa, is working with other players, but she spots the new girl immediately. The girl is clearly nervous she's setting foot on the hallowed ground of Spartak for the first time. Larisa walks over carrying a tennis ball. Larisa says, "I'm glad you're here." Then Larisa says, "Can you do something for me?" The girl nods. Larisa tosses her a tennis ball and the girl catches it, and Larisa smiles. The whole interaction took ten seconds. But in those ten seconds, the girl went from nervous outsider to belonging to the group. That's when I started to wonder: what's that made of? How do groups create that sense of connection that drives their success? So you could say that tennis ball sent me on a journey around the globe.

EC: After only a few pages of reading, I was already surprised at some of the conclusions you had drawn on how culture impacts organizational success. What were your biggest surprises as you explored these concepts in preparing the book?

I'd say the power of vulnerability was the biggest surprise. Like a lot of us, I'd grown up always associating leadership with confidence and expertise. So when I saw that leaders of the very best organizations -- I'm talking SEALS Team Six, Zappos, San Antonio Spurs, Pixar -- were incredibly open about their weaknesses, I was shocked. As one leader told me "The most important words a leader can say are, 'I screwed that up.'" But when you look deeper, it makes sense. Groups that hide their weaknesses are weak. Groups that share them are strong, and having leaders be open about weakness is the best way to do that, because it gives others permission to tell the truth. One of the SEALs commanders called it a "backbone of humility." I like that, because humility isn't weak -- it's actually the best way for a group to be strong together.

EC: I know you spent time with the Cleveland Indians, San Antonio Spurs, and other athletic organizations as you prepared the book. How is elite team sport similar to small and large businesses? And how is it different?

Great question. Traditionally, those elite teams have operated on a different plane than the rest of the business world. But I think we're at a moment where the lines are converging. A lot of that has to do with the rise of data, but perhaps more has to do with the way both elite sports and elite businesses have realized that they are engaged in a learning contest. That is, how can they maximize their daily habits to produce the most growth (for players, for coaches, for managers, for everybody) in the shortest amount of time. This means they are operating from a growth mindset, using development systems, and embracing cross-domain learning like crazy. I think the one area where it remains different is in diversity. Elite sports is filled with very similar people -- mostly male. That is starting to change, and the smart teams are leading the charge. That's one area where I think we'll see a lot of change in the coming years.

EC: Let's say that the average business owner or coach reads this book and realizes that they have some serious work to do to improve their corporate or championship culture. What are the small hinges (initial change) that are going to swing the biggest doors? In other words, are there 2-3 recommendations that you think would yield the most profound changes for organizations in desperate need of improvement?

I'd suggest a few things to think about. First, think about your culture change the same way you would think about a fitness regimen -- namely, that it's a process, and it requires time, repetition, and commitment. Its success won't depend on doing something once or twice, but rather on building strong organizational habits that drive improvement day by day.

Second, undertake a culture capture to figure out where you are. Culture captures can take a lot of forms: the most common is an in-depth survey (anonymous, preferably) that unearths the strengths, weaknesses, and tensions within a culture. Two questions you might ask would be:

1) What gets rewarded around here?

2) Tell me a story about something that happens in this group that doesn't happen anywhere else.

This is also a good opportunity to help define your priorities: what comes first? What comes second? Third?

Third, encourage leaders to express vulnerability. For change to happen, leaders need to send a clear and powerful signals -- and there's no more powerful signal than a leader asking their group what they can do better. One way to do that is by sending a simple email: What do you want me to keep doing? What do you want me to stop doing?

Closing Thoughts

The Culture Code is one of the few self-development/business books that I think has universal application and is therefore a good read for just about anyone. Everyone - regardless of title - is part of multiple cultures in their daily lives and can derive strategies for optimizing them from this book. I'd highly recommend giving Dan's book a read.

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A New Paradigm for Performance Testing – Part 2

Yesterday, I featured Part 1 of this interview with Rick Cohen, MD, the president and founder of Bioletics.  Today, we pick up where we left off. EC: Please tell us about the tests you use to determine mineral levels.  For what specific minerals are you testing, and what are some of the common findings you're seeing that can make a big difference in how someone feels and performs? RC: Our daily diet must contain adequate amount of macro minerals, which are necessary for all biochemical processes in the human body.  These minerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and sodium.  Among these, the most important are calcium and magnesium. Calcium helps to neutralize acidity, clear toxins and build bones; it also increases alkalinity and muscular flexibility. And while calcium receives a lot of media attention, the true king of all minerals is magnesium. Magnesium is not only the single most important mineral in sports nutrition, but it is also one of the most critical elements in our body.  About 350 enzymatic functions depend on magnesium, including ATP, the key factor that creates energy for every cell.  Optimal magnesium levels enhance athletic endurance and strength by increasing metabolic efficiency.  Magnesium promotes muscular contractility, decreases oxygen consumption, and improves cardiovascular efficiency. Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is very common.  Inadequate dietary intake, sweat loss, physical and psychological stress and acidic beverages-such as energy drinks and sodas-cause the body to extract both magnesium and calcium from the bones and tissues in an effort to maintain proper blood pH.  This combination of mineral loss and acidity in the body will decrease athletic performance and prolong recovery.  It will also increase bone turnover and the resulting risk of stress fractures.  This is exactly what we were seeing in younger female athletes with accelerated bone loss.


Despite magnesium's pivotal role in energy production and muscular health, many athletes are completely unaware of its critical importance.  Part of the problem is that there is not an easy or inexpensive test available for intracellular magnesium levels. While it may seem easy enough to assess levels of minerals - especially of magnesium and calcium in the blood - it's not. We have overcome this problem by using a functional marker of mineral balance called NTx.  Bones are living tissues that are constantly breaking down and rebuilding.  When they break down faster than they can rebuild, the body excretes increased amounts of NTx.  While NTx is not specific indicator of low magnesium, it tells us when an athlete has an intracellular calcium/magnesium imbalance as well as poor amino acid and/or vitamin D status. EC: What's your take on the most effective way to combat a magnesium deficiency that's discovered? RC: That's where the other issue with magnesium comes into play: oral supplements work slowly; it can take more than a year to adequately restore your levels.  In the past, intravenous infusions were considered the most effective way to go.  But this was expensive and impractical for most athletes.  Based on our research at Bioletics, we have found that the use of a topical magnesium oil spray to be very effective at restoring low magnesium levels after only two to three months of use. EC: What about the hormonal panel you guys run?  What does it include? RC: As athletes, we want our body to have a positive anabolic to catabolic ratio.  In simple terms, anabolism is the process of growth and repair.  Your anabolic state is at its highest in your teens. Testosterone is the key anabolic hormone.  Catabolism is the process of breakdown and destruction. Your catabolic state is as its highest after injury and illness, and increases as we age.  Cortisol is the key catabolic hormone.  By measuring your saliva, it is possible to create a snapshot of both an athlete's testosterone and cortisol balance as well as their anabolic/catabolic status.  Unfortunately, we frequently find low T/C ratios in athletes.


Testosterone is an important health and performance hormone-for both men and women.  It plays a key role in directing muscle growth and repair; it is what enables the body to generate optimal power and recover fully after such a hard effort.  Testosterone contributes to an athlete's ability to stay focused, motivated and positive.  A premature decline in testosterone levels can be attributed to a number of different factors: poor diet, lack of sleep, excess body fat, nutritional deficiencies, environmental estrogens, and/or the use of medications, alcohol, and drugs. Cortisol is a major steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands.  It allows the body to cope during times of stress. Without proper cortisol response, you will not be able to effectively meet the daily challenges of life.  Cortisol levels exhibit a natural rise in the morning and fall at night.  If this rhythm is disrupted, the body's mineral balance, immune response, blood sugar and stress responses will all be negatively affected.


While it is very difficult to reverse the natural age-related decline in testosterone, the effects of stress and training on testosterone can be minimized. Since even "positive" stress can deplete testosterone, those who participate in endurance-related sports are especially at risk for having lower than optimal levels. Research shows that testosterone levels are temporarily decreased as a result of overtraining, while serum cortisol levels increase.  These changes in testosterone to cortisol balance are sometimes disastrous for an athlete, as they lead to elevated resting heart rate, poor performance, slow recovery, sore muscles, poor appetite, lethargy, muscle loss, irritability and a low sex drive. Periodic assessments of both testosterone and cortisol are important when it comes to uncovering a potential hormonal deficiency or to simply fine tuning your training program. EC: I'm curious about the essential amino acid test.  In particular, I'm wondering if you're seeing issues in this regard not only in people who don't consume enough protein, but also in folks who DO eat a lot of protein and for whatever reason don't utilize it properly. RC:  Of all the Bioletics assessments, the widespread deficiency in essential amino acids was the one that surprised me the most.  Almost every athlete knows that they need to eat protein and most athletes supplement their diets with additional protein powders. Yet, 90% of the athletes whose plasma amino acids we've tested were essential amino acid deficient.


Essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  They allow the body to build and maintain muscle, neurotransmitters, hormones and key digestive and metabolic enzymes.  Research shows that the lack of just one essential amino acid can significantly interfere with these processes. What I've come to realize is that athletes don't have a protein need; they have an essential amino acid need.  And it's not how much protein we eat that is critical; it's the biological value of the protein we eat that counts. It's a common belief that one protein is just as effective as another when it comes to rebuilding tissue.  But dietary proteins all contain a different mix of the eight essential amino acids we need.  Therefore their biological value-their ability to be utilized anabolically by the body-differs. Research indicates that approximately 40% of the protein in high biological foods such as whole eggs, meat, fish, poultry is used by the body for anabolic purposes.  Only about 20% of that found in low biological food such as whey, soy, egg whites, beans and nuts is used for growth and repair.  So, vegetarians and those who consume much of their daily protein as a bar or powder should know that these proteins are not well utilized by the body.


And the problem gets even more complicated.  Even if you are careful to consume only high quality proteins, you still may not be utilizing them effectively.  Stress, age, the use of medications, and/or certain cooking methods can reduce your body's ability to fully digest the protein you're eating. Athletes need to be aware that competition, training, and injury all damage structural proteins.  As a result, the athlete's body naturally requires greater amounts of essential amino acids for repair, recovery, and growth.  An amino acid deficiency will prompt the body to break down body tissue-primarily muscle-in an attempt to access the missing essential amino acid(s) it needs. Because of all these issues, we strongly recommend that all athletes use an essential amino acid supplement formula.  These formulas do not require digestion and are almost 100% utilized for anabolic purposes.  While many of us have come to rely or believe protein powders will cover our protein needs-and I was one of them-we now understand that protein supplements are just not as effective as we once thought. EC: Lastly, you've just added an essential fatty acid (EFA) panel.  What are you looking for on this? RC: Yes, I'm very excited about this new assessment, as the benefits of optimal essential fatty acid status are numerous and it brings us closer to our goal of being able to conveniently and inexpensively assess EVERY key, biological process in the athletic body. Essential fatty acids perform many physical functions. No cell, tissue, gland, or organ can function normally without them.  Optimal EFA levels are critical to reducing overall inflammation in the body.  They help you work harder and recover faster; they protect your joints, improve your mood and promote deeper sleep. Our EFA status becomes stronger when we eat foods that are similar to those eaten by our primitive ancestors - lean meats, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and fats with a high omega-3 to omega-6 EFA ratio.


Over the past 50 years, we've developed an unfounded fear of healthful fats.  And we've started over-consuming processed fats.  Most Americans consume very little natural omega-3 fats, which can be found in fish, grass-fed meats, seeds and nuts.  Instead, we eat  processed omega-6 fats: corn, soy, canola, and safflower oil.  As a result, we've created a very unhealthy omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio in our bodies.  Recent research has shown that this low omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (Omega-3 index) is not only the most powerful marker of inflammation, but the strongest predictor of sudden, cardiac death. Last year, when Bend suffered the loss of a 39 year-old world class athlete and the cause of his death was attributed to unknown cardiac cause, I became very motivated to find an affordable, at-home EFA assessment for athletes.  I am excited to say that we now offer athletes the opportunity to assess inflammatory status and their critical Omega 3 index with just a single drop of blood. EC: Very cool.   Nothing like some cutting-edge stuff to wrap this great interview up!  Thanks for taking the time today, Dr. Cohen. For more information on Dr. Rick Cohen and Bioletics, head over to their website.  And, don't forget that they've arranged a sweet discount for all EricCressey.com readers.  Enter the coupon code ECCPP25 at checkout, and you'll receive $25 off the cost of your initial basic or complete panel. Please enter your email below to sign up for our FREE newsletter.
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A New Paradigm for Performance Testing – Part 1

Last September, I was put in touch with Dr. Rick Cohen, and we hit it off right away.  In addition to being a knowledgeable and super-qualified physician, Rick is also a baseball fan and performance geek just like me (I knew he was legit when I met him for the first time and he was rocking some Vibram Five Fingers shoes!).  Rick's enthusiasm and forward-thinking mindset is absolutely contagious and has gotten his company, Bioletics, off to a great start. Just to get a feel for what he does (and while remaining unbiased), I had my fiancee go through a series of performance testing they do (outlined below) and the entire process was fantastic.  One of the glaring issues discovered was low vitamin D, which has since been addressed.  Just two months prior to our work with Rick, I'd encouraged her to ask her primary care physician to check her vitamin D levels at a routine physical.  The physician's response was "No.  You're not post-menopausal." The take-home message from this quick story is that not all physicians have all the information (or even a small fraction of the information, as Vitamin D plays countless roles in the body other than bone metabolism). Since forward-thinking physicians are few and far between, it's sometimes a challenge to find someone good in your area - and that's where a guy like Rick and his company can come in to help out. I highly recommend Bioletics - to the point that I wanted to get Rick on-board for an interview to share some of his great information.  So, without further ado, Dr. Rick Cohen. EC: Thanks for taking the time for an interview, Dr. Cohen.  Please fill us in a bit about your background, what you're doing at Bioletics, and where the idea for the business really emerged. RC: My pleasure. It actually all started in your neck of the woods in Massachusetts. I had a medical practice with a focus on nutrition, athletic performance and aging there for over ten years. At the time, I was very dissatisfied with the assessment options available in the medical field. So, I developed a few of my own that could be done at-home with either a saliva or urine sample or a finger stick blood spot.


After moving to Bend, Oregon last year, I became involved in screening some of the girls on my daughter's track team for iron deficiency and bone health. We also looked at vitamin D, which is a critical nutrient for both bone health and overall athletic performance. When the results came in, it turned out that 95% of the runners low in iron. Additionally, 80% of the team was vitamin D deficient and more than 50% were mineral imbalanced.  After adding amino acid and recovery hormone panels to the screen, I repeated it with several local elite athletes.  Again, the results were shocking: not a single athlete was healthy from a biological standpoint.


At this point, it was pretty obvious that there was a need to turn the entire concept of human performance testing inside-out.  For years we've been obsessed with peripheral performance measurements-heart rates, VO2 levels and power output.  But the idea of looking inside an athlete's body has been completely overlooked. Giving athletes the ability to assess their unique, physiological needs represents a paradigm shift in athletic performance.  Despite all the marketing hype in the sports supplement industry, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all formula for improving your athletic performance. As athletes, our basic, biological needs are all very different.  We would never think of buying a bike, a baseball bat, or a pair of running shoes without trying them on or out for size.  Why do we use nutritional supplements-protein powders, recovery drinks and vitamins-without knowing if they are a good fit for us? EC: Now, let's talk about some of the specific things you guys can test.  I've been a big vitamin D guy for years now, and I know that's one of your core tests.  What are you seeing thus far? RC:  Optimizing your level of vitamin D3 is the single most important thing you can do for your health and well-being-and quite possibly your performance.  Interestingly enough, vitamin D isn't really a vitamin at all.  It's a hormone manufactured by your skin during critical periods of sun exposure. Vitamin D is both a key building block and a cellular activator of almost every physical process.  It regulates more than 2,000 of the 30,000 human genes.  It's an essential part of the endocrine system, as it controls several of the adrenal hormones, growth of cells, and production of enzymes.  It's a powerful immune booster that provides a front-line defense against colds and flu as well as cancer and autoimmune disease. Vitamin D is essential for optimum athletic performance, as it contributes to muscular strength and recovery while controlling physical reaction time, balance and coordination.


So far, almost every athlete we have tested has had sub-optimal levels of vitamin D (less than 50 ng/ml) except for one professional triathlete who trains in the sun in Australia all year.  Many athletes have been extremely low-under 25ng/ml. Unless you can train outside year-round and/or make a conscious effort to get mid-day sun exposure; it is almost impossible to restore vitamin D to an optimal level-between  60 and 80 ng/ml-without supplementation.  When supplementing, the best results have come from the use of a sublingual vitamin D3 spray.  Gel caps, tablets and liquids are less effective. The most important thing to remember is that your vitamin D level needs to be assessed and monitored. You can't just take a random dose of vitamin D3 and expect to get results. Bioletics offers an at-home finger stick assessment that is virtually pain-free; it takes only two minutes and two drops of blood to complete. EC: Now, how about iron?  It's traditionally been a huge issue for female endurance athletes, but are you seeing it as much in females who aren't on that level of training volume? RC: Yes.  We learned this is a huge issue, especially among teenage girls.  In general, low iron is a problem among menstruating women because they lose blood every month.  With teenage girls, the issue is compounded by the fact that their diets tend to be lower in calories, red meat and protein-all of which are critical for obtaining adequate iron.


Iron is critical for athletic performance, as it carries oxygen in the red blood cells from the lungs to the muscles.  Severe iron loss results in a reduction of red blood cells (a condition known as anemia).  What most athletes are not aware of is that you do not have to be anemic to be suffering from low iron.  The most common signs of iron deficiency are fatigue, irritability, poor performance and slow recovery. Another important point to stress is that while the assessment of red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and serum iron are needed to diagnose anemia, these are not sensitive indicators when it comes to assessing deficiencies in iron stores-the supply of iron that's actually available for the body to use.  The iron-binding protein, ferritin, is a much more reliable marker of functional iron stores.  We like to see levels of ferritin in females between 40 and 70 ng/ml. EC: How about men?  Is too much iron a common finding? RC: Good question. In men, we are much more concerned with excessive iron than with low iron. This is because men do not bleed regularly and also tend to eat more red meat and calories than women. The problem with too much iron is that it can create free radical damage in the body.  Just as iron in metal rusts, it has a similar action in your body.  Fortunately, your body has natural antioxidants to protect against the free radicals created by iron.  But when levels get too high, it can become a problem.  As we get older, excessive iron levels can play a role in the development of heart disease, cancer and immune disorders. Excessive iron is linked to a genetic variation in iron absorption rates.  Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder where the body absorbs iron too readily and iron stores can get tens or even hundreds of times higher than normal and cause severe organ damage. While the full blown disorder is relatively rare, many people have lesser variants which cause gradual accumulation of iron over time.  The second cause is dietary-we take in too much iron by eating iron-fortified foods like breakfast cereals and breads.


Just as with vitamin D, it is necessary to know your iron levels before you begin to take any kind of iron supplement.  The restorative dose of iron is generally 36mg daily while the maintenance dose for those with a history of low iron is 18mg daily. Taking a restorative dose without knowing a benchmark can push iron levels too high.  Playing it safe and taking a maintenance dose may not be enough. Ideal levels of ferritin in men are between 70 and 100 ng/ml.  If your levels are higher than that, it is important NOT to take any iron supplements or eat iron-fortified foods. We have seen iron levels in the upper 100s and low 200s in younger male athletes.  For these men, we recommended they monitor the levels every few years and to consider donating blood twice a year.  This will not only keep their iron levels from climbing, but will greatly help those in need. Part 2 of this interview with Rick will run tomorrow, but in the meantime, I've asked with Rick to arrange for a special discount for EricCressey.com readers only.  If you head over to www.Bioletics.com and enter the coupon code ECCPP25 at checkout, you'll receive $25 off the cost of your initial basic or complete panel. Please enter your email below to sign up for our FREE newsletter.
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3 Corrective Exercise Mistakes Fitness Professionals Make

Thought you all might be interested in a recent interview I did for Rick Kaselj of ExerciseForInjuries.com: 3 Corrective Exercise Mistakes Fitness Professionals Make For more details on some of the concepts I discuss, I'd encourage you to check out Assess & Correct.

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Consistently applying the information on this DVD for a few minutes each day should help anyone remain limber and injury free for a long time. Not only does it show you what to do in terms of fixing your problems, but it also shows you how to assess where you're at in terms of muscle balance and flexibility, so you can see how you're improving or regressing in those areas over time and in what areas you might need more work. It definitely makes a great addition to anyone's training library. -Kelly Baggett
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All in a Day’s Work

Below, you'll find a link that John Izzo just did with me at his website. All in a Day's Work: A Strength Coach's Acumen - An Interview with Eric Cressey Enjoy!
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In the Trenches with Eric Cressey

I was the guest on Mike Robertson's newsletter podcast last week.  We discuss shoulder dysfunction in regular lifters and overhead throwers and a whole lot more.  Check it out at the link below: In the Trenches with Eric Cressey
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An Interview with Jim “Smitty” Smith

An  Interview with Jim "Smitty" Smith

By: Eric Cressey

I've been following the Diesel Crew guys for a few years, but it wasn't until the past year or so that I had the opportunity to start interacting with Jim "Smitty" Smith regularly.  In the short time that I've known him, Smitty has really impressed me; he is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable and innovative guys in the "biz."  The interview below is just a small sample of the tremendous amount Smitty has to offer; enjoy! EC: Okay, Smitty, I know quite a bit about you, but that's not to say that our readers can be sure that you're not a complete poser.  Tell is about yourself. JS:  I've been involved in strength training since 1995 and a strength coach since 2001.  I have gotten a few certifications over the years, but have most of my knowledge from years of self study, competing in sports and strongman competitions. I co-founded the Diesel Crew, along with Jedd Johnson, in late 2001 and have been developing the Diesel Method since then.  We've been utilizing powerlifting, odd objects, kettlebells, weightlifting, and Grip strength protocols to build athletes to their greatest potential. I believe we have a solid reputation for being innovators and hopefully provide strength coaches and fitness professionals with new ideas to improve their strength programs. EC: You're about as creative a person in this industry as I've met.  You're like MacGyver; you could train a blind man with no arms and legs with just a book of matches, some Blue Heat, and a burrito.  How did you get so creative?  Do you sniff glue or something? JS: What have you heard?  Let's not talk about college. Seriously, when people first see our products, I am sure they say to themselves, "Damn, I would have never thought of that exercise."  I take a lot of pride in that. When Jedd and I first started, we had no money and no equipment.  All we had was a great desire to succeed.  If we had an idea for an exercise, but we didn't have the equipment, we had to make it or improvise. For instance, in the EliteFTS Q&A Exercise Index, you'll see one unique way to train atlas stones right in a commercial gym without atlas stones and even a cool way to train farmer's walks without farmer's walk implements.  These are just two quick examples. But it is much more than being creative with equipment when you are poor. If athletes or coaches are participating in or training with powerlifting components, they typically only use powerlifting techniques.  If people are utilizing odd objects in their training, they also typically only use these techniques and exercises. But, we saw great potential benefit trying to combine techniques from each protocol into one system.  We called it the Diesel Method. One example would be to take typical keg lifting (odd object) and perform beyond the range (powerlifting) bear hug good mornings.  This BTR hip extension has huge carryover for gluteal firing and neutral lumbar stability endurance. EC: You and Jedd are the go-to guys when it comes to grip training.  What are the most common mistakes you're seeing people make with their grip training? JS: Grip training is not only about getting your hands stronger; it is also about preventing imbalances, training specificity (General, General Specific) for your sport and finally learning how to channel the power generated by your body through your hands.  The body works in integration and everything is connected.  Grip is typically the weakest link in this coordinated kinetic chain.  Strength programs focus on developing limit strength, rate of force development, power, speed, agility and so on - but we still must be able to express this strength through our hands to play any sport!  That is why Grip strength is so important. For example, if you're a boxer whose hands, wrists, and elbows are weak or beat up from tons of sparring, you are very quickly going to: -  become injured from impact - cannot provide adequate contraction of musculature -  become injured from too much tendon and soft tissue trauma - poor restoration -  become limited in your ability to generate a powerful punch - poor neural expression To determine how to implement Grip protocols into your training, check the Needs Analysis for the sport and go from there. EC: I know you're got a pretty good corrective training background; have you been able to apply some of this grip work in that capacity to prevent/rehabilitate injuries to the elbows, forearms, and wrists? JS:  Eric, you know we need to create balance in our movements.  If we have balance in movements, improved soft-tissue quality, neural grooving of firing - then we'll have proper functioning.  The same goes for Grip. You used the example in your Sturdy Shoulder seminar of people who sit in flexion, type in flexion, watch TV in flexion, play video games in flexion all day long.  These people MUST do extension, mobility, and soft tissue work. Similarly, a comprehensive grip protocol would include; flexion (fingers, wrists), extension (fingers, wrists), supination, pronation (radial/ulnar), ulnar / radial deviation (wrist), internal / external rotation (humerus), adduction / abduction (fingers) - everything from the fingertips to the shoulders.  Remember, everything is connected. Now, once these movements, imbalances, and injuries have been addressed, we move to Level II, where we start to learn how to express power through the hands.  That is where irradiation or co-contraction comes into play. The lower arm musculature is part of the whole kinetic chain.   You'll immediately see this when you move into finger into extension against a rubber band or sand (bucket), and the musculature that crosses your elbow contracts.  Why is that?  Because we know that if a muscle crosses a joint it affects that joint.  That is why when you clench your fist as hard as you can, your forearm, biceps, triceps, deltoid, and lat contract as well.  That is how the kinetic chain works, and we can utilize this to our benefit in our training. EC: Let's talk about the Jim Smith library.  What are your top five resources? JS: 1. All the standards: -Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, by Baechle and Earle -Supertraining, by Siff -Science and Practice of Strength Training: 2nd Ed., by Zatsiorsky and Kraemer -Designing Resistance Training Programs, by Kraemer and Fleck 2. The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, by Cressey 3. Starting Strength, by Rippletoe and Kilgore 4. Afterburn I & II, by Cosgrove 5. James Smith's Manuals 6. The Coach's Strength Training Playbook, by Kenn 7. Chu's Plyometric books The list goes on and on.  Some I reread regularly, some I use as a reference. I would recommend that your subscribers also do the following: 1. Print out articles and categorize them by topic: nutrition, periodization, sport, protocol, etc.  Now, take these articles and get a bunch of 3-ring binders and create a binder for each category. 2. Make a goal for yourself that each day you will: read one article, read one blog post, add one article to your binder(s), email someone on a question you have, start or create an article yourself. 3. With the idea of always trying to improve yourself, attend every seminar, clinic, and/or conference you can.  I've spent thousands this year in the never-ending pursuit of knowledge. EC: You've got a new manual: "Building the Ultimate MMA Athlete."  Fill us in a bit on it. JS:  I've been a huge MMA for years and coming from a wrestling background, I have been formulating ideas for years to put in this manual, specifically training the functional movement patterns for combat athletics.  It started as a small project and ended up being an eight-month project ending with a 300-page manual. I have gotten an overwhelmingly great response to the book because it is not your standard deadlifts, pull-ups, and cleans type of manual.  Of course, those exercises form the foundation of the program and are in there, but I wanted to go above and beyond that standard school of thought.  I used every implement known to man and took the three functional positions; Standing/Clinch, the Guard, and the Mount, and built the programs and exercises around them. My next manual, Chaos Training, is also going to open a lot of eyes and minds on what "functional" training really is. EC: Cool stuff; thanks a ton for taking the time, Smitty.  How can our readers contact you? JS: The best bet is to go through our websites, www.DieselCrew.com . EC: A note to our readers: Smitty's new Combat Core e-book is an absolutely awesome read that I highly recommend to everyone interested in learning about true "core stability" and "functional training."  I reviewed it HERE.
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An Interview with Nick Grantham

I first came across Nick Grantham’s name in some of Alwyn Cosgrove’s writings, and I know that Alwyn isn’t one to lavish praise on anyone in this industry who doesn’t deserve it.  Shortly thereafter, Nick and I began exchanging emails, and I came to appreciate just how solid a coach he is.  I did an interview for his newsletter a few months back, and now it’s time to reverse roles and share with you a bit of what he has to offer.

EC: Hi Nick, thanks for taking the time to be with us today.  Please take a few moments to fill our audience in on who you are, where you’ve been, and what you’re doing now.  Feel free to leave out any incriminating details, but don’t omit anything that’ll give me some firepower for busting Cosgrove’s chops!

NG: First, thanks for asking me to do this interview. I guess I had a pretty standard childhood (fortunately, it was back in the day before computer games, so there was plenty of physical activity).  I always enjoyed sport and belonged to my local track and field and soccer clubs, although I was never setting the world on fire with my performances.  That was left to one of my older brothers, Chris, who has an annoying ability to be pretty good at any sport he even attempts.

Around the age of 12, I got into Taekwon-Do, and once I got to black belt, I realized that I was pretty good!  To cut a long story short, I competed nationally and internationally for a number of years, and it was during this time that I was unfortunate enough to encounter Alwyn Cosgrove!  I have plenty of good stories – maybe a future e-book!  Al was at University and I was also thinking about getting out of my job in insurance to go to Uni.  I applied and was accepted at the same Uni as Al, which was great because we now both had a training partner and I think this was really when our understanding of the importance of physical preparation took off.  Alwyn graduated a couple of years before me and set up shop in America (the rest is history – fantastic wife, beautiful house, great career).  I finished my degree and went on to complete a post-graduate degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science. I began my coaching career at the Lilleshall Sports Injury and Human Performance Centre, where I worked for the British Gymnastics Team.  Since then, I’ve continued to work as a strength and conditioning coach working with many of the country’s elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic finalists; World, European and Commonwealth Games medalists; and professionals in a multitude of sports, including netball, cricket, hockey, skiing, professional football, rugby league, rally driving, Boxing and ultra-endurance running. I’m currently working for the English Institute of Sport, a lottery funded organization that provides a nationwide network of world-class support services designed to develop the talents of elite athletes.  My role is lead strength and conditioning coach for the West Midlands region and I’m responsible for the programming of 20-30 athletes from a range sports. In addition to the day job, I’m running Winning Edge Fitness Solutions (www.winningedgefitness.co.uk), a web-based venture delivering information to coaches and athletes on the latest advances in training. It’s been a real challenge, but it’s exposed me to so many great people that are out there that are working on the floor and getting results. EC: What are the main differences you see in the performance enhancement community in Europe as compared to North America?  What do you feel is unique that Europe has to offer us?  What do we offer to Europe? NG: The biggest difference is experience.  S&C is well established in North America.  Western Europe has been slow to catch up and S&C is only now starting to become a recognized career path.  I think we are at the “tipping point” and in the next five years, S&C will go from weakness to strength (excuse the pun).  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel through and visit some of the leading training establishments in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, so I’ve a pretty good idea of what’s out there. North America – experience is the key – S&C has been around for decades and it’s ingrained in the national culture (sporting culture…not the burger eating culture).  If I want to know what works over time in a practical environment, chances are I can get a good answer from a coach in the USA.  I’ve always found the coaches to be very open and honest on my visits to the USA (maybe because they don’t see a UK S&C coach as a threat!).  One drawback is that it’s sometimes difficult to take direct comparisons due to differences in national sports (American football, baseball, lacrosse, etc.) and a superior collegiate system.  The other negative is that at times you can be a bit insular, and given that Western Europe and the Southern Hemisphere is catching up in terms of S&C, you would do well to dig your passports out and take a flight out of America to come and see some of the good stuff that is taking place overseas. Western Europe – it’s exciting times!  The profession is young and that means there is a real desire to improve.  It’s a bit like sport – when you are a champion there’s always someone that wants to knock you off your perch; that someone is Europe!  I think there is a real passion to drive S&C forward and to begin to lead the way (let’s face it: Eastern Europe led the way for years).  The diversity that Europe offers culturally translates into S&C and we have the opportunity to go to different countries and see how their system works and then take it and apply appropriate parts to our training environment. When all that is said, we can all learn a lot from each other – I know that I’ve picked up a lot of very useful information during my travels and I really enjoy sharing my experiences with coaches from overseas. EC: Very interesting perspective.  Now, rapid fire: what are ten things our readers can do RIGHT NOW to become leaner, stronger, faster, and more muscular? NG: 1. Set goals – SMART goals so that you know where the journey is going to take you and how you are going to get to your destination. 2. Keep a training diary – You need to track your progress. 3. Train consistently – Set a plan and stick to it. It’s all too easy to say, “Hey, I’ll train today.”  If you don’t schedule a time to train, chances are you will get to the end of the day and you will have missed your session. 4. Recover well – You’ll understand why when you read the rest of the interview! 5. Concentrate on the 98% - I’ll explain this one later on. 6. Include conditioning work (prehab/remedial/injury prevention….call it what you like….my choice is conditioning) in your training session.  Superset between the main lifts – that way the work gets done and you will be on the way to becoming “bulletproof.” 7. Replace steady-state running with high intensity intervals – Come on, do I really need to explain this one?  Intervals will give you more bang for your buck than slow steady-state running. 8. Don’t get hung up on TVA recruitment – Isolating a muscle will not necessarily transfer to improved core strength during athletic movements.  Train how you are going to perform; make sure you hit all of the major muscle groups (rectus abdominus, obliques, erector spinae, etc.). 9. Learn to handle your bodyweight – I’ve worked with elite gymnasts – these guys are super strong.  I don’t really care what your bench is if you can’t even handle your own bodyweight with good form.  Don’t neglect the basics. 10. Whole body hypertrophy programmes – I’m with Alwyn Cosgrove on this one.  Why go for split routines when you can get a greater training effect from a whole body hypertrophy routine? EC: You’re on a sinking ship with your entire library of resources – training, nutrition, business, psychology, lifestyle, gardening, astrology, whatever.  What are the ten resources you save as the ship goes down? NG: OK, I’m not sure why I would have my entire library of resources on me during a cruise, but hey, I’ll go with it!  It’s really difficult to do this and I’ve not gone into my library (actually, bookshelves in a spare bedroom) to jog my memory.  I’m going with what comes to mind as a write this down. Physical Preparation Supertraining – Mel Siff (a no brainer - this is a must have – I was fortunate to see Mel present before he passed away – awesome knowledge base) Running: Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology in Practice - Bosch and Klomp (I just got this and it’s looking good) Speed Trap – Charlie Francis (not really a training manual, but there are some great insights into Charlie’s training concepts) Functional Strength Coach DVD Set – Mike Boyle (this is a must-have DVD series – 10 hours packed full of great information from Mike) Business The E- Myth - Michael Gerber (great one for anyone thinking of setting up a small business) So You Want to be a Physical Preparation Coach? – Ian King (this book helped me enormously when starting out – especially with my contract negotiations!) Fitness Info Products – Ryan Lee (I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now if I hadn’t bought this product) Lifestyle The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle – Jim Rohn (Great book that offers a real perspective on what’s important for success. The Millionaire Next Door – Stanley & Danko (I have this as an audio book and just loved the insights into behaviors and characteristics of the wealthy) Think and Grow Rich – Napolean Hill (tough going and one that took me a long time to get though but it certainly makes you think) EC: Speaking of sinking ships, where are most athletes missing the boat?  What common mistakes do you see all the time? NG: Don’t get me started or we will be here all day!  I will try to keep it brief and give you my top three: 1. Lack of consistency – So many people want a quick fix and want to see results yesterday.  Newsflash: it takes time.  I’m sure we are all familiar with the general rule of 10,000 hours of correct, progressive and adaptive training to be a successful athlete at the elite level.  Okay, so some of you may argue that not everyone will be operating at an elite level, but the general rule still applies; you need to do your time before you can expect to get some payback.  There are no shortcuts and one of my favorite quotes is “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”  Think about it! 2. Being too clever - People trying to be too clever and thinking that innovation should always mean advances in technology or the like.  Sometimes, innovation can be adopting a very simple approach.  I was recently listening to Vern Gambetta speak and he summed it up with this quote: “Everyone is looking for the 2% that is going to make a difference – but what about the other 98%?”  All too often, we worry about the small things when we don’t even have the basics under control.  You have no right to be doing the clever stuff until your have the 98% covered – and don’t forget it has to be done consistently. I think your Magnificent Mobility DVD is a great example of taking care of the 98%.  Please don’t be offended, but what you deliver is a simple-to-use resource.  The content is proven, it’s not fancy, it’s not clever, and you don’t need the latest piece of kit to perform the drills.  It takes care of the basics – that’s what will boost performance. 3. Poor Recovery – It’s all about training and what takes place during the 1-2 hour training session.  The majority of people neglect what happens during the other 22 hours!  You don’t improve from training; you improve by recovering from training.  This is an area that I’ve been looking at for the past 18 months and I guarantee that if you take care of the fundamental rules of recovery you will see your performances in the gym and in your sport go through the roof.  I’ve recently pulled together a heap of recovery information into a single training manual and I’ve put together the “recovery pyramid” that guides you through the myriad of different recovery strategies available. For more details, check out www.recoveryregeneration.com. EC: Right on.  I’ve read the e-report and it’s very thorough.  Moving on, what does the future hold for you?  Where is Nick Grantham going to be in five years? NG: More of the same, I hope!  I always find it difficult to predict where I will be in 5-10 years.  Back in 1992, I was working in Banking and Insurance, five years later I was graduating from University, five years on from that I was working with a national squad preparing them for a major World Championships.  I honestly wouldn’t have predicted any of those major events! I’m really enjoying what I’m doing at the moment.  The day job is fantastic; I get to work with some great high-level athletes in a tremendous working environment, and the website stuff is an exciting new area. I hope that whatever the future holds won’t take me too far away from what I really enjoy – and that’s coaching.  The new ventures that are starting this year are very exciting and I think that the UK is just on the verge of taking off in terms of getting the S&C message out to wider audiences; hopefully, I will be part of that movement. Moving away from work, I hope the future will bring some additions to my family; my daughter Erin needs some playmates!  The short answer is, who knows what I will be doing in five years?  I’m not too bothered, as long as I have my family and friends around me to share the experiences with (it would be very dull otherwise). EC: Feel free to shamelessly promote your products and services here.  I’ll just sit back and give a cyber “thumbs-up” as you go. NG: Well, Eric, the website has been name checked a few times!  The first two products to come out from Winning Edge Fitness Solutions are two in-depth reports. Recovery and Regeneration - The Essential Guide to Training Hard Without Falling Apart gives readers access more than 20 pages packed full of the latest information on recovery and regeneration. Vibration Training - From Space Exploration to Fitness Club is a slight departure from the norm, and I know I’ve had a dig at people being too clever!  However, like it or not, vibration training is big news and it’s important that you are up to date with the background information because you need to be able to be able to answer your clients questions on the latest advances in training technology – and they will be asking! The big thing you will then need to do is work out if it falls into the 98% or the 2% - but one thing is for sure: if you don’t have the information, you can’t make an informed decision. Other than the e-reports, I’ve got some exciting collaborations with two companies in the UK that are looking to establish a series of seminars throughout the UK (keep an eye on the site for my speaking schedule), as well as some possible joint ventures including a tennis-specific conditioning manual. EC: Thanks, Nick.  Where can our readers find out more about you? NG: Thanks for having me Eric. If your readers are interested in reading more about me or they simply want to take a look through my archives, then they can check out www.winningedgefitness.co.uk.  We run a free weekly newsletter packed full of training advice and regular features.  If your readers have any questions, they can also e-mail me at nick@winningedgefitness.co.uk.
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First Person: Cressey

When TC asked me to outline a recent training program, he was probably expecting to get something powerlifting-oriented, as that's probably the style of training people associate with my name around these parts. Truth be told, I'm at a bit of a crossroads in my training career. I still consider myself an athlete first, meaning that lifting (while competitive in itself) has always been a means of becoming more athletic or displaying the athleticism I have. To take it a step further, I work almost exclusively with athletes, particularly baseball guys. This past off-season at Cressey Performance, we saw 96 baseball players from 32 high schools, 16 colleges, and 8 MLB organizations. As such, it's really important for me to not only look like an athlete (and not like a blocky, immobile powerlifter), but also be able to lift, jump, and sprint alongside these guys. Hell, I even caught bullpens for four of the pros! Continue Reading... Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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Eric Cressey is Unbalanced

At Cressey Performance, stability balls are holey. No, that's not a typo. I mean employees literally use knives to puncture them. With glee.
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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series