Home Posts tagged "Interviews" (Page 2)

T-Nation Strength and Size Roundtable: Part 3

Writer Greg McGlone rounded up five of the biggest, baddest, strongest, and best-informed hombres in the iron game, and invited them to share their "secrets" with those of us who also want to get bigger, badder, stronger, and better-informed. In part 1, the coaches discussed the viability of building size and muscle at the same time, along with a comparison between compound and isolation movements. In part 2, they tackled the topic of whether you have to look strong to be strong, along with a fascinating discussion of training splits. Today, the topics include nutrition, supplementation, recovery, and some final thoughts. Continue Reading
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T-Nation Strength and Size Roundtable: Part 2

Writer Greg McGlone rounded up five of the biggest, baddest, strongest, and best-informed hombres in the iron game, and invited them to share their "secrets" with those of us who also want to get bigger, badder, stronger, and better-informed. In part 1, the coaches discussed the viability of building size and muscle at the same time, along with a comparison between compound and isolation movements. Today, they'll tackle the topic of whether you have to look strong to be strong, along with a fascinating discussion of training splits. Continue Reading...
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T-Nation Strength and Size Roundtable: Part 1

Writer Greg McGlone rounded up five of the biggest, baddest, strongest, and best-informed hombres in the iron game, and invited them to share their "secrets" with those of us who also want to get bigger, badder, stronger, and better-informed. Continue Reading...
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The Strongmen Speak

An Interview with Brad Cardoza and John Sullivan By Eric Cressey

Walk into any gym and you'll encounter some really big guys. Heck, you might even find a few who can move some reasonably impressive weight on the bench. Rarely, you'll see people who actually deadlifts. And, once in a millennium, you might encounter someone who smokes a crisp 400-lb. butt-to-heels squat that brings a tear to your eye. I can guarantee you, however, that you've probably never encountered someone who can do what Brad Cardoza and John Sullivan do regularly in their training. That's not to say, however, that you should simply discount what these guys have to offer; chances are that some Strongman training methods could take your performance and physique to all new levels. You'll probably learn a few new ways to frighten the old ladies in your gym, too! EC: Tell me about yourselves to set the stage, fellas. Please omit anything related to your criminal records, favorite colors, and Sully's weird rash. BC: I've pretty much run the gamut in terms of participation in strength sports. I lifted in high school and threw the discus (some school and conference records), then went on to have a successful career at Division III UMASS-Dartmouth, where I was ranked #1 in the country in the hammer throw and held the UMASS-Dartmouth school record in the 35# weight throw. As a result, UMASS-Amherst offered me a D-I athletic scholarship, so I gladly accepted the opportunity to be involved with a program that had good coaching and a solid strength and conditioning program. I wound up going to D-I Nationals and still hold the UMASS school record in the hammer throw. I got away from competing for a few years after college, as I was busy trying to start a career www.pinnaclestrengthandfitness.com as a personal trainer in Boston. While working at Boston Sports Clubs for two years, I met quite a few people, most notably Sully. It took a little while, but he finally convinced me to give Strongman a try. Needless to say, I'm very happy he did; it has become the most important part of my life these days. This is one thing people have a hard time understanding about me: when I am involved in a sport that I love, it comes before everything else in my life besides loved ones. At UMASS, track came before classes, and now strongman comes before work, sometimes even my health. This attitude has lead to a lot of improvement, as I earned my pro card in the International Federation of Strength Athletes (IFSA); had some success in powerlifting during 2003 (575 squat, 375 bench, and 650 deadlift without much specific preparation); and received sponsorship from AtLarge Nutrition www.atlargenutrition.com and APT Pro Wrist Wraps www.prowristwraps.com. Then again, my approach has led to some frustration at times as well; I'm now dealing with my third major injury in only two months (a record for me); this time I'm going to need surgery (Editor's Note: at publication time, Brad has not only had the surgery, he's back in the gym already!).

JS: When I originally started becoming more focused on strength sports, I was interested in powerlifting. I began to learn more and more about the Westside system of powerlifting, and began to use their methods in my training. In 2002, I met the owners of Total Performance Sports in Everett, Mass., who were running the Mass. State Strongman Championships. They convinced me to come down to their place and give it a try. I did, and loved it. I wasn't sure I was going to enter the contest, but after about a month of training there, they basically said, "you're entered". I was kind of nervous, but in retrospect it was the best decision that was ever made for me. I won my division, and I was hooked after that. Later that same year I started working for Art McDermott, training clients at Highland Strength & Fitness in Andover, MA. I have trained there for all of my subsequent Strongman competitions. My last competition was NASS Nationals, where I placed 5th in the 200 lb. class. I've also been involved in Olympic lifting of late. EC: Those answers once again reaffirm my belief that lifting heavy stuff is more addictive than any drug – even Viagra on a trip to the Playboy mansion. Anyway, what does a typical week of training look like to you? BC: When I am healthy and preparing for a competition, my typical week would look something like this:

Monday - Max effort overhead pressing day (maybe a little thick bar bench or something to keep the bodybuilder in me happy!) Tuesday - Max effort leg day. This would include squat and deadlift variations as well as my single leg support stuff (my favorite) Wednesday or Thursday - There are usually two event days per week when preparing for a competition. This would usually be one of them; the other falls on Saturday. Usually, you are training for 5-6 events, so I prefer to do three of them on Wednesday/Thursday and three of them on Saturday. Friday - Upper body pull day. This includes all of my back work as well as any direct arm or grip stuff that I might need. Saturday - Event day #2

I should also mention that I usually mix in some Olympic movement at least once a week. Sometimes, I'll do it on a day off, or possibly just throw it in wherever I feel it fits best. JS: A typical training week is a little tough, since the nature of the events in a Strongman contest can vary so widely. That said, here is a template similar to the one I used to prepare for the 2004 X-Treme Strongman Showdown, where I placed second. Keep in mind that this template reflects my personal strengths and weaknesses, and may not necessarily be optimal for someone else.

Monday: A) Heavy Pull/Good Morning (DL or DL variation once every 14-21 days) B) Harness Front Squat or Olympic Squat C1) Lunge Variation C2) Core Work Tuesday: A) Jerk Variation B1) T-Bar Row B2) Close grip Bench C) External Rotation Work Thursday: A) Power Clean B) Box Squat C) Core Work Saturday: Events

I don't do much overhead or grip work because I tend to do very well in those types of events. I focus on exercises that will bring up exercises like stones, which are a weakness for me.

EC: As sweet as training Strongman-style to prepare for Strongman competitions is, it stands to reason that the overwhelming majority of our readers have other goals. How can the ordinary fitness enthusiasts integrate Strongman training into their programs? Bodybuilders? Powerlifters? Other athletes? Regular weekend warriors? BC: What people have to realize is that Strongman training means nothing more than integrating explosive, compound movements into your workouts. I am actually quite impressed with how many guys at my gym have taken my advice and started doing a lot more squat and deadlift work. I even see guys attempting 1-leg reverse hypers, pull-throughs, etc. It all comes down to wanting to be athletic and strong - not just big or buff. I will admit that when I first arrived at UMASS and my coach told me that I wouldn’t be bench pressing again during my collegiate career, I was heartbroken! No more than two years later, when it was time for max day and everyone on the team was doing benches, squats, and cleans, I was no where to be found. I maxed on front squats, snatches, and behind the neck push presses! At this point, I was convinced that these were the lifts that were turning me into a successful hammer thrower, so "missing out" on the others was of absolutely no frustration. As far as strongman events are concerned, there are usually a limited number of things you can do at a traditional commercial gym. One the most beneficial and rewarding events is the farmer's walk. These were tough to do at the gym until I realized I had two of these guys at my disposal: Throw some tape in the middle of the handle to make it a little bit thicker, and it is probably the best farmer's simulation you will get without the real implements.

Besides farmer's, there aren’t too many events you can replicate in the gym, and this is when you have to use the imagination a little bit. Zercher holds (Conan's wheel), stiff leg pull-throughs (stones)…there are lots of things you can do that will be great for you and maybe even amp you up enough to try a competition sometime! Grip is the only other thing about which you ought to worry if you're thinking about competing. Sully covered that one pretty well in his article last month, though, didn't he? All that you have to remember is that most people's grips suck; I know mine did. The more heavy pulling you do on a weekly basis, the more rapidly your grip will improve. Certainly, it doesn’t hurt to add the grip-specific stuff as well. JS: I think certain athletes can benefit greatly from Strongman training. Strength athletes like powerlifters can expect greater hip, back, and abdominal stability, strength, and power from using Strongman equipment like the super yoke, stones, tries, kegs, and sandbags. Bodybuilders can fill the sandbags with chicken breasts to make sure they get their 1200 grams of protein a day, and use the kegs to stock up on posing oil! For combat athletes, I think it can also be extremely beneficial. Lifting oddly shaped, uneven objects will tax your body in a way you don't normally encounter in the weight room. On top of that, strongman medleys are an unbelievably effective conditioning method. Summarily, I've had great utilizing these methods with my football, hockey, wrestling, and baseball clients (just to name a few). EC: Any tips on improvising home versions of various Strongman implements? I've heard that the Strongmen are the closest thing to a freaky big and strong Bob Villa that one can imagine! BC: This depends! If you live with Art McDermott at Highland Strength and Fitness (www.highlandstrength.com), then yeah - just bring the stones into the driveway, pull out all the tires, and get to it after warming-up with a keg for height in the back yard! Most people don’t have these luxuries, so it really depends on what you have at your fingertips. If someone was really interested in training Strongman without spending any money, I would probably tell him to get the following Kegs – There are a lot of things you can do with a keg, and many of them you will see in competitions. First, it's ideal to get as many as you can so that you can have a variety of different weights. You will have to fill each keg with different stuff like water, sand, lead, and shot. Once you have all the kegs you can do the following:

1. Overhead presses- (strict, or clean and press) 2. Carries- (much like a Husafell stone) Try doing sprints while holding a 200 lb keg. 3. Loading – If you have platforms, you can load kegs just as you would load stones. A little bit more awkward, but it gets the job done. 4. Keg throw for height – This may be my favorite. It feels very similar to a snatch to me, and will build explosive power like you can only imagine!

Tires – Many people assume that tires are just for flipping, but different size tires can actually come in handy with:

1. Tire flip- Okay, so this one is pretty self-explanatory. This might be one of the most beneficial exercises I have ever done - inside the gym or training events.

2. Tire throw for distance – If you have ever seen someone throw the discus, this one might make sense to you. Start with a tire from a smaller car, something like Sully’s Sentra. If you can throw your flipping tire, give me a call. This would mean that we need to bring you straight to the Olympic training center to start throwing the discus. 3. Drags – If you don’t have a sled, tie some tires together and drag those. This might be a pain, but it works, and dragging on grass will make it much tougher

Odd-shaped stones – Once again, not too many people have Atlas Stones or Husafell stones on hand, but if you have a quarry of any kind or even a cheap or generous mason in the area, you’re in luck. Your options with this implement include:

1. Loading – This is just like the Atlas stones you have seen; if you have a platform or even a keg onto which to load them, you’re all set. These may hurt and be a little bit more awkward than it real Atlas stones, but it does the job. 2. Throwing – Instead of throwing the stone like a discus, you would throw either for distance like a shot, or for height over a bar. 3. Carrying: Nothing beats a true Husafell stone carry. If you are lucky, you might be able to find a somewhat triangular piece of granite or something similar. As long as it sits in your arms comfortably, this could be on of the best free training implements of all.

You'll notice the similarities between the odd-shaped stone and keg exercises; this just underscores the importance of variety! Anything heavy on which you can get you hands – Last but not least comes everything else. You name it: blocks of wood; cars or trucks for pushing and pulling; sledgehammer swings; etc. If you are familiar with the events you will be able to pull it off. Just remember that it takes a very special (read: crazy!) person to be able to go out into the cold and be excited about running around holding onto kegs and rocks. Once you start seeing results from integrating workouts like this into your weekly routine, you will be hooked, I promise. Just have fun and if you feel like your isolating a muscle, stop immediately (just kidding). All that I ask is that you stop doing day purely for arms! EC: Whoa, Brad covered a lot. Say what you want, Sully, and then we'll make up the difference with a photo of you picking up a car. JS: Personally, I feel that for most of this stuff, you need to find the actual implements. As Brad mentioned, however, kegs, tires, and sandbag aren't too difficult to come by. You can also probably find a quarry or construction site and "borrow" some heavy stones. Or, you can just pick up cars.

EC: Okay, time to play the "glass is half empty" game. What are the downsides of competing as a Strongman? BC: My top four answers would have to be:

1. Injuries - I have had more injuries in the eighteen months than I have had in my entire life. There's been a hernia, broken foot, pulled hamstring, disk problems, and pec tear… and the list is still growing! 2. Convenience - I have to drive a total of three hours just to get proper equipment and training partners. 3. Getting beat – This is pretty much applicable to any sport, but I hate it when I don't win. 4. Nuisances in the Gym – Specifically, I'm referring to all of the attention that "strong guys " pay to you at the gym. Ever since I started competing and word got around, I constantly have guys lifting next to me and trying to show me up. At times, it gets ridiculous and I have to say something.

JS: It really tests your mettle, both mentally and physically. Plus, it's lots of fun to train and compete. There really is a great camaraderie in the sport. EC: Okay, now that you jerks have depressed our readers and killed the enthusiasm we'd built beforehand, let's finish on a positive note and highlight why being a Strongman competitor rules. That is, unless, of course, you'd like to club some baby seals, set a kitten on fire, or make fun of the handicapped. Got any good party tricks or cool stories? BC: How about another list?

1. Personal satisfaction - I have never been more excited with my accomplishments and training than I have been over the past 1.5 years. I am doing things that I thought (assumed) I would never be able to do. That keeps me going. 2. Being called one of the strongest small people in the country isn't half bad either. 3. The people – The individuals involved in Strongman competitions are some of the friendliest, most helpful people I have ever known. Ever since Sully introduced me to the sport, I am constantly amazed at how cool all of these people are. 4. When it comes down to it, I am just happy to have a successful career in the best sport in the world. People can try to argue this if they so choose, but I have never seen more talented athletes in my life. I am constantly amazed at some of the feats of strength and athleticism I see on a regular basis. 5. I wish I could say party tricks, but there's not much I can pull out my sleeve in that regard. Actually, I take that back. When I was in Vegas for Olympia this year, I spent a bunch of time doing overhead presses with a couple of girls in the hot tub. First they asked me to pose, so I figured I would go with the second option so that Sully wouldn't give me a hard time for acting like a bodybuilder. I guess that could be considered a party trick. I also like to throw things far at parties; I used to do this a lot in college, but not so much anymore. Usually, "things" consists of kegs, people, or whatever else is lying around.

JS: My family and friends automatically assume that I want to help them move, since I compete. Also, people look at the cuts and scars on your arms from doing stones and think you have some kind of weird rash. And, by far the worst, people ask, "Oh, you compete in bodybuilding?" Crushing full cans of soda and ripping phone books are always good times, too. EC: Way to try to explain that rash, Sully. Unfortunately, it isn't on your forearms… On that sickening note, it's time to wrap this up. Thanks very much for your time, guys, and best of luck.

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Robertson Training Systems Interview (Part II)

MR:  You have a new book out, entitled Maximum Strength.  Who is this book geared toward?

EC:  People who enjoy gardening.  Next question?

Kidding, of course.  I would say that this book targets the typical lifter who goes to the internet to find information to take his/her training to the next level.  There are a lot of people in the T-Nation, etc. crowd who have done a good job to get from untrained, to beginner, to intermediate – but don’t necessarily have the tools to take it to the advanced level.  Maximum Strength provides that opportunity – and addresses mobility/activation, nutrition, motivation, programming strategies – basically a lot of the things you need to know to be successful not just for the 16-week program I outline, but also the years of lifting that follow it.  Thus far, the feedback has been fantastic.

MR: Could you give readers an idea of how much goes into the publication process? EC: Matt first approached me with the idea in the fall of 2006, and we created a proposal (I think it was 14 pages, plus a sample chapter).  Our literary agent took it to some publishing companies, and we eventually agreed on a contract with one (DaCapo) in January of 2007.  Matt and I wrote the book over the next six months and submitted in mid-June.  Over the summer, I dedicated seven Sundays to the photo shoot (harder than it sounds – especially when you wear the wrong color/type of clothing, as I did in the first two sessions).

We spent the fall going through proofs, cover designs, copy-editing, and sending out advanced copies.  I’m pretty sure that it was complete in February – and production started in time for a late April/early May release.  So, all told, it was about an 18-month process.

So, I’ve now self-published and dealt with a publisher.  Both have perks and drawbacks, so I’ve got plenty to consider as I take on future projects.

MR:  You also recently released an e-book called The Art of the Deload.  What prompted you to write a manual all about taking time off training?

EC: I honestly don’t know that many people understand what it feels like to remove fatigue and display fitness.  Heck, I never did before I got into competitive powerlifting.  Going into my first powerlifting meet, I had never deadlifted more than 484 in training.  I had to hold myself back like crazy the last three weeks before the meet to avoid doing anything stupid – and it was hard because that amount of deloading was unfamiliar to me.

I went out and pulled 510 on a fourth attempt at a body weight of 161 for a Connecticut state record in that meet.  Strategic deloading has been a big part of my programming ever since. The thing is, not all trainees are the same.  Experienced lifters need to deload differently than beginners and intermediates.  Lifters with a previous history of injury need to deload differently than those who are completely healthy.  Competitive lifters need to deload differently than those who are just lifting to enhance quality of life and look good.  This e-book has something for all of them.

MR:  Without giving away the farm, what are some of the different scenarios you outline?  I know that I talk to people and they think of a deload week as one of two things:

1 – No strength training whatsoever; maybe some cross training.

2 – The typical 60% volume approach with a slight reduction in intensity.

EC:  For the record, I don’t agree with #1 that you just outlined at all, and I think that in most cases, people who drop volume by 40% need to maintain or actually increase intensity.  How’s that for barbecuing some sacred cows?  Anyway, I also cover:

    • how to deload to make sure old injuries don’t resurface
    • how to know when to drop intensity instead of volume
    • how to effectively incorporate a testing day at the end of a deload week
    • why beginners don’t need to deload
    • what active rest means to me
    • how to deload on reactive training (particularly important for guys like me who have crazy supinated feet)

Plus, there is some nuts and bolts about how to individualize deload frequency.

MR:  Any new projects or things in the works we should know about?

EC: Next week, we’re moving everything – equipment, turf, flooring, computers, stereo – in Cressey Performance three miles east.  We also have to demolish the walls at our old place when we leave – and I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to that part!  All in all, though, with the new book out, and the new facility up and running (and summer training underway), I won’t have anything too exciting on tap until at least the fall.  My presentation at the Perform Better Summit in Providence at the end of May will be my last seminar for a while – unless we decide to do something at CP to celebrate the new location this summer.

MR:  Okay, time for the final question, and you know I ask everyone this!  You’ve been doing this for a while now – what mistakes have you made in the past, and what have you since done to correct that mistake?

EC:  My biggest mistake was caring what stupid people thought of me.  Let me explain.

For whatever reason, the strength and conditioning and fitness industry is very polarized.  I suspect it has something to do with the fact that physique and performance enhancement tends to put people on pedestals; many people think that looking good and being stronger or more athletic will make life so much better.  When was the last time that a forward-thinking accountant or surveyor got the attention some strength coaches get?

Because of the puzzling nature of this industry, people get irritated more.  I think Mike Boyle said it best when he noted that many people don’t know the difference between “disagree” and “dislike.”  That said, there are some people that disagree with my methodology and hate my guts.  Because I put myself out there by writing articles/books, making DVDs, and speaking at seminars, it is hard to avoid it getting back to me.

Early on in my career, I let this stuff get to me.  The negativity weighed on me and I actually lost sleep at night for what some keyboard warrior said about me on an internet forum.  Fortunately, I quickly recognized the unfavorable impact taking criticism to heart was having on me.  I had five or six guys on the internet who didn’t like me even though they’d never met me and disagreed with an article I wrote.  It’s not something I needed to be losing sleep over.

So, I got that negativity out of my life and focused on what I’m doing right.  I’m a better coach, much more positive, and far more productive.  I’m helping people and not arguing with them.  Instead of defending myself or worrying, I’m continuing to contribute to the body of knowledge.  If I was as bad as these 5-6 people (or however many there are) seem to think, why are athletes practically kicking the door down to Cressey Performance to train?  And, why would a traditionally strength-training-unmotivated population (baseball athletes) not only be appreciating the benefits of what we do, but thoroughly enjoying the process as much as the destination?

So, my advice to those out there would be to get rid of the negativity in your lives.  We’ve all worked with people who just punch the clock, criticize those around them, and don’t really care.  Stay away from these people and focus on what’s right in the world around you.  It’ll make you a better lifter, coach, and person. As I type this newsletter up, I realized that I've trained athletes on each of the past 24 days - and the two days prior to that were spent attending a Perform Better Summit.  So, I guess you could say that I can't remember when my last true day off was.  But, you know what?  I'm not nearly as tired as I would have been if I had stayed up all night worrying about what somebody said about me on the internet.

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Robertson Training Systems Interview (Part I)

Mike Robertson (robertsontrainingsystems.com):  Eric, believe it or not you’ve never done an interview for the site before!  If you don’t mind, please explain to people that we AREN’T the same person. (Yes, people actually thought this for a while!) Eric Cressey: I’m actually just the president of the Mike Robertson Fan Club; he’s the real thing. MR:  You’ve recently opened your own facility, Cressey Performance.  What kind of people are you training on a day-to-day basis?  How is the gym going? EC:  It’s going very well and we’ve having a blast.  In fact, as I type this, we’re in the process of arranging a move into a new facility; it should take place within two weeks and double our space. We get a little bit of everything in terms of client variety, but the overwhelming majority of my athletes are baseball players.  This past off-season, we saw 96 baseball guys from 32 high schools, 16 colleges, and 8 major league organizations.  Throw in some football, hockey, triathlete, track and field, soccer, bobsled, skeleton, rowing, and regular ol’ weekend warriors, and it keeps life interesting. MR:  I’m willing to admit, you know a ton about shoulder.  Couple this with the fact that you work with a ton of baseball players daily, and that pretty much makes you a shoulder guru in my book.

Where are most people missing the boat with regards to training overhead throwing athletes?

EC:  Wow, there is a loaded question.  Here are a few thoughts – speaking specifically to a baseball population to keep it more focused.

People spend too much time looking at the rotator cuff.  It’s like focusing on the oars when there is a hole in your rowboat.  The truth is that when someone’s shoulder goes, the rotator cuff (and labrum) are just the place where someone becomes symptomatic; it’s poor soft tissue quality and faulty movement patterns elsewhere (and in many cases rotator cuff weakness) that cause the problem.  So what are these problems?

First off, the very nature of baseball is an issue.  It’s a long competitive season (>200 games as a pro, potentially, and more than half that in high school/college): Short off-season + Long in-season w/daily games = tough to build/maintain strength, power, flexibility, and optimal soft tissue quality.

You’ve got unilateral dominance and handedness patterns, too; when was the last time you saw someone throw the first inning right-handed and then toss the second inning as a southpaw?  We know that asymmetry is a big predictor of injury.

Let’s take it a step further.  The best pitchers – with a few exceptions – are the tallest ones. In chatting with one MLB scout this off-season, he noted that only 14% of major league pitchers are under 6-feet tall.  The longer the spine, the tougher it is to stabilize.  I’ve worked with eleven guys 6-9 or taller since 2003, so I can definitely speak to this from experience.  They were all basketball guys; I can’t imagine how jacked up they’d be if they were throwing baseballs, too!

And, to be more blunt, there is absolutely nothing even remotely healthy about throwing a baseball.  Do a MRI of a pitcher’s shoulder and you’re going to find labral fraying: big deal!  That’s just what happens when you go through 7,500°/second of internal rotation during acceleration – or the equivalent of 20 full revolutions per second!  Some guys are symptomatic and some aren’t; it’s the other “stuff” that’s going on that dictates whether they’re hurting or playing pain-free.

MR: So what’s this “other stuff” of which you’re speaking?

If you want to keep a pitcher healthy, your job is to make him more athletic.  I have seen professional pitchers who couldn’t broad jump 80 inches or front squat 135, yet they could throw 94 mph.  I’m proud to say that we had two pitchers vertical jump over 35” and broad jump over 115” at their spring training testing this year.

Baseball is a population who – believe it or not – still doesn’t understand a) what good strength and conditioning is and b) what that solid training can do for them.  I am a firm believer that much of the abuse of performance enhancing drugs in professional baseball is a direct result of players wanting a shortcut to make up for the fact that they really have no clue how to train for peak performance or sustain it for the long haul of a professional career.  And, more sadly, there aren’t many good performance enhancement coaches out there who know how to show them the way.  I’m strongly believe that our success in working with these guys is directly related to the fact that we show them direct, tangible results of their training, educate them on the “why” of what they’re doing, and make it fun in the process.

That said, in terms of athleticism, my goal is symmetry – or at least bringing guys closer to it in the off-season.  To that end, we address the following to keep shoulders healthy:

•Scapular stability – In Particular, we need to focus on lower trap and serratus anterior.  I know it’s hackneyed by now, but you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe!  It’s important to get pec minor, levator scapulae, and rhomboids loosened up to make this happen.  The problem is that the research has shown that pitchers have less scapular upward rotation than position players, specifically at humeral elevations of 60 and 90 degrees – the “zone” in which the humerus sits during throwing.

•Thoracic extension and rotation range of motion – If you don’t have thoracic extension and rotation, you won’t be able to get sufficient “lay back” during the cocking phase, so there is a greater stress on both the humerus and elbow to achieve this range of motion.

•Rotator cuff strength/endurance – You need a strong posterior cuff for decelerating all that internal rotation, but you also need a very strong subscapularis to both depress the humeral head during overhead work and prevent anterior translation of that head.  The subscapularis takes on an even bigger role when you realize how many overhead athletes have chronic anterior-inferior laxity and posterior-inferior capsular contracture: adaptations that favor anterior translation of the humeral head (which the subscapularis must resist).

•Soft tissue quality – Pay close attention to lats, pec minor, levator scapulae, posterior cuff/capsule, forearms (flexor carpi ulnaris, FC ulnaris, pronator teres), rhomboids, and subscapularis.

•Opposite hip and ankle – 49% of arthroscopically repaired SLAP lesion patients also have a contralateral hip abduction ROM or strength deficit.  Lead leg hip internal rotation range of motion is extremely important for pitchers and hitters alike.

•Core stability/force transfer – If you can’t transfer force from the lower extremity through the core effectively to the upper body, you shouldn’t be throwing a baseball.  Period.

•Glenohumeral (shoulder) ROM – Over time, the dramatic external rotation during the cocking phase can lead to a loss of internal rotation ROM; this is known as glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD).  The posterior capsule and cuff stiffness leads to a superior and posterior migration of the humeral head during the late cocking phase.  You also get some osseous changes to the humeral head itself.  This commonly presents as medial elbow issues – including UCL injuries and ulnar nerve irritation.

To fix this, we use posterior cuff/capsule soft tissue work, sleeper stretches/cross body mobilizations/doorway capsular mobilizations, and then subscapularis isolation work (prone internal rotation, cable internal rotation at 90 degrees of abduction).  Little league elbows get chewed up more by the varus torque (think transition from cocking to acceleration) and present more laterally with pain.  Adolescent elbows are a bit more skeletally mature and break down medially from the valgus-extension overload that takes place during acceleration.   Little leaguers just need to get stronger.  Adolescents need to get stronger and work on posterior cuff flexibility (more internal rotation).  College and pro guys need to start incorporating capsular mobilizations because of the actual structural changes that take place to the capsule.  Back and Goldberg provide an excellent series of photos for each situation HERE.

Now, there is some debate over whether the loss of internal rotation in experienced throwers is due to posterior capsule tightness.  Burkhart and Morgan insisted that there was posterior capsule tightness involved via what they called the “peel-back” mechanism, which causes the humeral head to translate posteriorly and superiorly during the late cocking phase.  They picked up on these posterior capsule contracture issues during surgeries of a large number of pitchers with type II SLAP lesions.

Wilk, Meiser, and Andrews (2002) countered that it was simply related to the posterior muscular tightness and the aforementioned humeral head adaptations.  They therefore recommend primarily cross-body and sleeper stretch drills with the scapula fixed – but don’t pay much attention to the role of the capsule.

I’m not too handy with an arthroscope (I prefer samurai swords for all my impromptu operations), so I keep my mouth shut and do both capsular and soft tissue mobilizations, as they’re all means to the same end.  They’re all brilliant guys, but are really debating on which one will get you from point A to point B faster – and how to perform surgeries once you are FUBAR.  I’m more concerned with preventing the surgeries in the first place!

Interestingly, there appears to be a “threshold” of internal rotation deficit at which a pitcher becomes symptomatic.  In the aforementioned Burkhart and Morgan study, all the surgery cases had an internal rotation deficit of greater than 25°. Myers et al. pinned that “don’t cross this line” number at about a 19° deficit.  The research on non-symptomatic throwing shoulders was in the 12-17° range – so every little bit matters.  Horizontal adduction (cross-body range of motion) is understandably impaired as well, and the common compensation pattern is for pitchers to substitute extra protraction for this lost ROM during the follow-through.  This is where pec minor grows barnacles and the lower traps simply can’t handle the load alone.

•Breathing Patterns – Guys who breath into their bellies have much better shoulder function than those who breath into their chests.

•Cervical Spine ROM – Levator scapulae and sternocleidomastoid have significant implications in terms of shoulder health, but very few people pay attention to them.  Levator scapulae helps to downwardly rotate the scapula, so if it’s tight, overhead motion will be compromised.  SCM attaches to the mastoid process of the skull as well as the sternum and clavicle; it might be the latissimus dorsi of the head and neck.  Suboccipitals can be hugely important as well.  Get ‘em all worked on by a good manual therapist.  Forward head posture is associated with too much scapular anterior tilt and too little upward rotation.

•Reactive Ability – We test all our guys on a single-leg triple jump to determine their reactive ability and look for unilateral discrepancies.  Typically, pitchers will have a better score on their lead leg, not their push-off leg.  It sounds backwards, but if you think about it, that front leg is more trained for deceleration and reactive ability (they have to land, and immediately swivel into fielding position).  The back foot is much more geared toward propulsion, so it doesn’t decelerate so well.

Interestingly, you can look at callus patterns and pick up on this.  Check out the base of the 1st and 5th metatarsals on a pitcher’s push-off leg and you’ll typically find calluses that indicate more of a supinator.  Check the lead leg, though, and you’ll find more thickening at the base of the 2nd and 3rd toes, indicating more pronation.  These won’t be as noteworthy in people who throw right and bat left (or vice versa); switch-hitting is actually really valuable for symmetry.

•STRENGTH – Yes, I put this in all caps because it is important.  If you think doing some rubber tubing external rotations is going to help decelerate a 100mph fastball that involves a total-body effort, you might as well schedule your shoulder or elbow surgery now.  Strength is an important foundation, so strengthen your posterior chain, quads, thoracic erectors, scapular retractors, etc, etc, etc.

MR: Damn that’s a pretty thorough answer!  How does overhead pressing fit into all of this?  Some people say you need to do it because they encounter it in their sport.  What do you say?

EC: I stay away from it.  Contraindicated exercises in our program include:

•Overhead lifting (not chin-ups, though)

•Straight-bar benching

•One-Arm Medicine Ball Work

•Upright rows

•Front/Side raises (especially empty can – why anyone would do a provocative test as a training measure is beyond me)

•Olympic lifts aside from high pulls

•Back squats

While I'm working on a detailed article on this topic, in a nutshell, it has a lot to do with the fact that overhead throwing athletes (and pitchers in particular) demonstrate significantly less scapular upward rotation – and that makes overhead work a problem.  This is particularly serious with approximation exercises, which leads me to… Comparing most overhead weight training movements (lower velocity, higher load0 to throwing a baseball is like comparing apples and oranges.  Throwing a baseball is a significant traction (humerus pulled away from the glenoid fossa), whereas overhead pressing is approximation (humerus pushed into the glenoid fossa).  The former is markedly less stressful on the shoulder - and why chin-ups are easier on the joint than shoulder pressing.

Likewise, comparing an overhead-throwing athlete to a non-overhead-throwing athlete is apples and oranges again.  Throwing shoulders have more humeral and glenoid retroversion, an adaptation that many believe occurs when pre-pubescent athletes throw when the proximal humeral epiphysis (growth plate) isn’t closed yet.  This retroversion gives rise to a greater arc of total rotation range-of-motion.  Wilk et al termed this the “total motion concept” (internal rotation + external rotation ROM) and noted that the total arc is equal on the throwing and non-throwing shoulders – yet the composition (IR vs. ER) is different in overhead athletes, who have more less internal rotation in their throwing shoulders.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people believe that the internal rotation deficit overhead athletes experience has more do to with the osseous changes than soft tissue and capsular issues alone.  We can work with the latter, but can’t do anything with the former.  So, when someone says that all their YTWLs and theraband exercises make it okay for an overhead throwing athlete to overhead press, I have to wonder how those foo-foo exercises magically changed bone structure.  Additionally, this acquired retroversion allows for more external rotation to generate more throwing velocity.  In my opinion, this is why you never see someone just “take up” pitching in their 20s and magically become a stud athlete; the bones literally have to morph to throw heat!  Believe it or not, some research suggest that this retroversion actually protects the shoulder from injury by “sparing” the anterior-inferior capsule in from excessive stress during external rotation.

Additionally, as I noted above, just about every overhead throwing athlete you see (and certainly all pitchers) have labral fraying.  The labrum deepens the glenoid fossa (shoulder socket) by up to 50% and creates stability.  Would you want to build a house on a foundation with chipped concrete?

There may even be somewhat of a congenital component to this.  Bigliani et al. found that 67% of pitchers and 47% of position players at the professional level have a positive sulcus sign in their throwing shoulder.  One might think that this is simply an adaptation to imposed demand – and that very well might be the case. However, those researchers also found that 89% of the pitchers and 100% of the position players with that positive sulcus sign ALSO came up positive in their non-throwing shoulder.  It may very well be that the guys with the most congenital laxity are the ones who are naturally able to throw harder – and therefore reach the higher levels.  If you’re dealing with a population that’s “picked the right parents” for laxity, you better think twice about having them press anything overhead.

With respect to the Olympic lifts, I'm not comfortable with the amount of forces the snatch puts on the ulnar collateral ligament, which takes a ton of stress during the valgus-extension overload cycle that dramatically changes the physical shape of most pitchers' elbow joints.  Cleans don’t thrill me simply because I don’t like risking any injury to wrists; surgeons do enough wrist and forearm operations on baseball guys already!  We teach all our guys to front squat with a cross-face grip. Lastly, here is a frame of reference to deter you from the "Since they encounter is in sports, we need to train it in the weight-room" mindset.  Boxers get hit in the head all the time in matches; why don't we intentionally train that?  Getting hit in the head is not good for you, nor will it make you a better boxer.  It is a part of the sport, but they don't intentionally add it into the training because they can appreciate that it would impair longevity.

Some might ask if I feel that it limits development of the athlete on the whole.  If you’re dealing with a little leaguer, feel free to do some overhead stuff with him; I love one-arm DB push presses with our younger kids.  However, with our 16+ athletes, my glass-is-half-full mentality is that we're avoiding any unnecessary risk because the reward is trivial at best compared to what you can do with effective non-overhead programming.  Like I said, every baseball pitcher you see will have fraying in their labrum - and that means less mechanical stability.

MR: So what do you like to do instead? EC:  Here’s a small list:

•Push-up variations: chain, band-resisted, blast strap

•Multi-purpose bar benching (neutral grip benching bar)

•DB bench pressing variations

•Every row and chin-up you can imagine (excluding upright rows)

•Loads of thick handle/grip training

•Med ball throws

•Specialty squat bars: giant cambered bar, safety squat bar

•Front Squats

MR:  Okay, that covers pitchers pretty damn well.  Do you follow the same guidelines with position players as well?

EC: At the youth levels, pretty much every kid thinks that he is a pitcher or a shortstop.  Next to catchers, these two positions throw more than anyone on the field.  At the pro ranks, most guys have developed a lot more of the adaptive changes I outlined earlier, so the name of the game is conservative in terms of exercise selection.  So, as far as avoiding the contraindicated exercises I noted above, we’re standard across the board.

I look at my baseball guys as pitchers, catchers, and position players.  The big areas in which they’re different are a) initial off-season focus and b) in-season training.

In terms of “a,” I’ve found that we need to spend more time ironing out asymmetries early on in the off-season with pitchers, as they simply don’t move as much as position players.  Additionally, with the amount of moronic distance running (can you tell I’m not a fan?) that many pitchers do, we spend a lot of time trying to get back a solid base of strength, power, and reactive ability upon which to build some pitching-specific endurance.

In-season, it’s not too hard to program for starting pitchers; you know they’re going to throw on a 5-day (pros) or 7-day (college/high school) rotation.  Some guys might close games on Mondays and start on Wednesdays, though.  Basically, you plan around the starts – and make sure that you get in a solid lower-body-emphasis lift in within 24 hours after a start.  Relievers are a bit more challenging – and in many ways have to be treated as a hybrid between position players and starters.  You base a lot of what you do on how many pitches they throw and the likelihood of them pitching on a given day.

As a general rule of thumb, I don’t do chin-ups or heavy pressing the day after someone pitches.  It’s generally more rowing and push-up variations.

I don’t squat my catchers deep in-season.  We’ll do some hip-dominant squatting (paused or tap and go) to a box set at right about parallel, but for the most part, it’s deadlift variations.  We get our range-of-motion in the lower-body with these guys with single-leg work.

Position players just need to lift – before or after games.  The name of the game is frequency, and as long as you aren’t introducing a lot of unfamiliar exercises or long eccentrics in-season, they won’t be sore.

MR:  This question may be for myself as much as the readers, but what resources can you recommend for someone that wants to learn more about the anatomy and biomechanics of the shoulder and elbow?

EC:  I haven’t seen a really good resource that effectively addresses the need for specialized training in overhead throwing athletes; I’ve actually had a lot of people telling me I should pull something together.  I guess that’ll be a project for the new facility.

That said, there are definitely some great resources available.  First and foremost, I really like all the drills you and Bill outline in Inside-Out – and I’m not just saying that to butter you up (hell, I already got the interview, and I can be a jerk to you whenever I want). Second, I think Gray Cook’s Secrets of the Shoulder DVD is excellent. Third is Donatelli’s Physical Therapy of the Shoulder is a classic.  It’s very clinical, and you won’t read it in one sitting, but it’s definitely worth a read. Fourth is Shirley Sahrmann’s Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes.  Sahrmann really turned me on to looking at things in terms of inefficiency/syndrome rather than pathology.  The way she approaches scapular downward rotation syndrome is great. Fifth, get over to Pubmed.com and read everything you can from James Andrews – and then search the related articles.  Be sure to check out Throwing Injuries to the Elbow by Joyce, Jelsma, and Andrews as well; it’s important to understand how shoulder dysfunction impacts elbow function.
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Rookie Reminders

Compiled by Eric Cressey

So you've finally made the decision to give up the "all show and no go" bodybuilder's mentality in favor of powerlifting, huh? Glad to have you aboard; please leave your posing trunks, tanning oil, and pink dumbbell triceps kickbacks at the door. It goes without saying that one's first powerlifting meet is an exciting, yet confusing -- and potentially disastrous -- event. Admittedly, I'm a powerlifter without much true competition experience under his belt, so it wouldn't be fair for me alone to put something together on this topic. With that in mind, I met up with four experienced lifters -- Jay Floyd, Ross Bowshers, Dr. Tom Deebel, and Steve Coppola -- to discuss first meet madness, and collaborate on a piece on how to avoid bombing out and looking like an ass in your first meet. EC: Welcome, fellas. Before we get started, let's clue the Rugged audience in on your lifting backgrounds so that they know we're talking to some pretty strong and smart lifters. JF: I'm 25, and am about to complete my M.Ed. in Health and Physical Education. I have a job awaiting me teaching health and PE and coaching football and strength and conditioning at a high school in Georgia. I got into powerlifting after an athletic career that included football, baseball, basketball, track, and even competitive collegiate cheerleading. Lifting was also a big priority throughout; and graduated high school with a raw 500 squat and 335 power clean. My last year of cheerleading was terrible and I really wanted to be competitive in something, so powerlifting seemed like a great fit. When I first started training for powerlifting with the Westside principles, my box squat was 365, deadlift was 495, and my bench was less than 300. After seven months (approximately six weeks of which was compromised due to two-a-day cheerleading practices and a shoulder injury), at my first meet, I squatted 575, benched 335, and deadlifted 535 at a body weight of 238. At my last meet, which was 356 days after my first meet, I squatted 771, benched 402, and deadlifted 633 at 265. This was all drug free. I'm tempted to make a run at Strongman training in the near future.

RB: I am 22 and played college baseball for three years: two at the Vincensses Junior College, and one at Division 1 University of Tennessee-Martin. I had to have stomach surgery during my junior season, at which point I decided to go back home to Indianapolis. I needed some thing to keep my competitive demeanor satisfied, so I checked out an Elite Fitness seminar and got totally hooked. I did some small local meets and then had to have stomach surgery again, which set me back 6 months with no training. I have been training very serious for the last year and a half but haven't been able to get to a meet recently because of my job and a recent injury. At a body weight of approximately 280-285 pounds, my best gym lifts are a 735x2 box squat, 505 bench press and 595 deadlift. Currently I am employed by the Franklin Boys and Girls Club and coach the Indianapolis Grizzlies College baseball team and go to school at IUPUI.

TD: I started powerlifting at the 1982 Pennsylvania Teenage State Championships, and competed approximately 12 times over six years ending in 1988. I started at 132, but after two years I moved up to 148 where I competed for 5 more years. My best ranking in the ADFPA/USAPL was Class 1. After chiropractic college, I continued lifting, but various injuries kept me from competing. In 1998, I began to learn ART, which helped to fix my injuries, and started training with Westside methods, which brought the excitement for lifting back. Last year, I did a deadlift meet and a push/pull. As of right now, I hope to be healthy enough to make a Class 1 or Master's classification later this year. My son, Tommy, Jr., is getting into the action, too, as you can see!

SC: I’m 22 years old, and compete in the 242 weight class as an “amateur” lifter. My best meet numbers are a 725 squat, 450 bench, 620 deadlift, and a 1795 total done in IPA meets. I’ve been a competitive athlete in various sports since age 8, but have only been competing in powerlifting meets since 2003 when my college baseball days came to an end. I’m lucky enough to train with a great group of lifters in Buffalo, NY; this group includes Paul Childress and Joe Dougherty, two of the top lifters in the world in their respective weight classes. We train using a conjugate system that is similar to Westside Barbell.

EC: What are the biggest mistakes you see novice lifters making before their first meets? JF: The biggest mistake I think beginners make is not knowing the rules and the ways of a meet. By this I mean how the warm-ups go, the technical rules, what equipment is legal, etc. I cant tell you how many times I have gone to a meet and some person during the rules briefing asks the dumbest question ever. Watch videos of lifters in the same federation that you will be competing in; doing so will allow you to see the calls and signals that are made in real competition. The best thing you can do is listen, especially during the rules briefing. Read the rules before you go. Know all the technical things so you can concentrate on your lifting. You can find articles at Elite Fitness on what to do at a meet; these helped me out tremendously. I would also recommend getting easy-to-use equipment at the beginning. Any single ply suit and bench shirt should do in the beginning. Get it early and get used to it. RB: The most common problems have to do with equipment. For example, one of my training partners was getting ready for APF teen and junior nationals, and after a great training cycle that took his bench almost up 100 pounds and his squat close to 150 in about 20 weeks, UPS lost his squat suit, and it took him six extra weeks to get it. He got it three weeks out from the meet and the legs were too long (needed to be tailored) and it was super tight; he couldn't even reach a parallel box with 635 pounds and had problem getting it up two weeks out! A $500 trip to Omaha was not too wise for him to go out there and bomb on the squat, so his dropped out. Get your equipment early and train in it! Other than that, powerlifting is just like any other sporting event; keep your nerves in check and don't sweat the small stuff and everything will be fine... TD: The biggest mistake novice lifters make is being unprepared for meet day. It's a great idea to see exactly how things run. You have to be familiar with the time it takes to warm-up, get on equipment, get ready for your attempt, and know how to perform the lift according to the rules. A beginner should really go see a meet first. The second mistake is not bringing enough stuff. You need meet-day food that you can tolerate, drinks, aspirin/Advil, your equipment, and any other comfort items. There can be long delays, so a book, Walkman, or Gameboy might take your mind off delays. EC: I put you last, Steve, because I know you've got a ton of these. Hit what the others haven't covered; the floor is yours! SC: In no particular order…

1. Not going into the meet fresh, and rested enough. Too many people overestimate their recuperative abilities, and don’t realize what it truly takes for supercompensation to take place, so they essentially wind up being overtrained leading into a meet. In my experience, this tends to occur moreso on the squat and deadlift than the bench. In my gym, we recommend lifters take their last heavy squat/bench/dead at least 2-3 weeks prior to meet day, minimum. Sometimes we will push this minimum to 3-4 weeks out from meet day for the deadlift depending on the lifter.

2. Not being familiar enough with one's equipment. It seems so obvious, yet so many people have no idea how to use their equipment come meet time. This could apply to getting it on and off in a timely manner, as well as how to perform in it. The bottom line is that you need to be confident in how to use your equipment with plenty of time to spare (weeks!) before the meet. 3. Not bringing an experienced handler - or any handler at all - to the meet with them. Although an experienced handler is preferable for obvious reasons, any handler will work to help get equipment on and off, give attempts to the scorers table, go grab food or water, tell the lifter how far out they are from being up, etc. Lack of any type of handler usually spells disaster (unless your name is Jay Floyd and you’re too cool for handlers and can wrap your own knees!) for the poor-planning lifter, and will also cause fellow lifters to get pissed off when the poor-planning lifter constantly asks them what’s going on. 4. Not bringing back-up equipment, shoelaces, etc. Anything you will use in any way on meet day, bring a back-up. Sometimes things go wrong, so you have to be ready. Speaking of readiness, be sure to pack plenty of food and drinks, as Tom mentioned. 5. Not being realistic with attempts. The novice lifter should aim to make as many lifts as possible in his or her first meet. This allows more PRs to be set, builds more confidence, and allows for steadier progression in subsequent meets. The novice lifter, in my opinion, should be hitting numbers on first and second attempts that have been done confidently in the gym (as judged by someone who has some meet experience, if possible), and should be aiming to set a PR on the third attempt. Technically, every attempt made will be a “meet PR” anyway. Failure to go into a meet with this mindset has resulted in many a novice bombing out or missing too many attempts; this not only hurts confidence, but also leaves too much doubt about what kind of numbers the lifter is really capable of hitting. 6. Not taking bands and chains off of the bar leading into meet week. Most novices probably aren’t doing advanced band/chain cycles anyway, but in the event that they are, they would be well-served to use straight bar weight on most of their exercises for a week or two before the meet. There a few reasons for this practice…most of them have to do with recovery, and the fact that the body needs to re-adjust to straight bar weight from a nervous system standpoint. Bands, especially, have a grounding effect; once taken off the bar, the lack of this grounding effect can lead to some instability in the lifter if sufficient time (a couple squatting/benching sessions) is not allowed for a regaining of balance. 7. Not knowing the rules of the federation. Jay already touched on this, but it warrants reiteration. The lifter should know the rules of his or her federation of choice prior to meet day. Different feds have different rules about each lift, and how they are performed. This might seem obvious, but I missed two benches in my first ever meet because I kept forgetting the fed I was competing in that day (USPF) had a “start” command on the bench at the time. 8. Not knowing the monolift rack height in a meet with a monolift before taking first attempts. Get under the damn bar before the meet starts and figure out your rack height, and tell the judges and scorer's table. This can be costly if not done, as it can be a bitch to basically squat a max attempt twice if your rack height is way too low or slightly too high. 9. Not timing warm-ups properly in the warm-up room. Don’t rush warm-ups and don’t take too much time. This comes with experience, but a good idea is to try and take a warm-up every 5-10 minutes depending on how many people are competing in the meet (if there are a lot of people, as in twenty or more in your flight, ten minutes between warm-up attempts is probably not too long). Have an idea of where you fall on the opening attempts list so that you can time things a bit better. EC: Awesome stuff, Steve. Knock back a post-training drink to replenish what that dissertation took out of you while I talk with the other guys. Before I move on, though, I'd like to add a little bit to Steve's third recommendation. Make sure that your handler knows where the meet is, how to get there, what time it begins, and how long he/she should plan for travel to the event. I learned this hard way in my first meet; fortunately, somebody else was able to help me out. Anyway, moving on…how important do you think it is to go and watch a powerlifting meet before you compete for yourself? Did you do so before your first meet? JF: Going to a meet before you compete is a good idea. At the first meet I went to, the meet organizer offered to let me sit next to a judge during the competition so I could see how things worked and he could explain things to me. I declined because I had been to a competition a few years before and had watched a million videos online. RB: Not that important...When I decided to get into powerlifting, I basically started calling people in my area who were the best. I had been training for about three weeks and went to train with Ron Palmer and Rocky Tilson's crew; they talked my training partner and I into a SLP meet that next weekend we went and did the meet never having seen one in person. In fact, my training partner, Justin Fricke, set the SLP Indiana teenage state bench press record at that meet! The people in powerlifting are great; Justin actually borrowed a shirt from Mike Coe, a WPO competitor, because his ripped. Here was a champion helping a young kid in a pinch even though he'd only known him for a week; you just don't see that kind of mutual respect and kindness in other sports. We have found all people in powerlifting to be great and helpful, especially Jim Wendler, who has by far been the most helpful for me personally. TD: It's a great idea to watch a meet and a better idea to help a friend first to see the flow of meet days. I highly recommend it. SC: I think this is very important. If possible, the novice lifter should be accompanied by an experienced lifter (whose brain can be picked by the novice as they watch the goings-on of the meet) if at all possible. I actually did not do this before my first meet, and it showed. I basically screwed up just about everything I could have on meet day. Things would have been a lot less stressful had I taken this logical step in meet preparation. EC: What would be your recommendations for picking attempts in a first meet? JF: It depends on how you train. If you train with a Westside-influenced program, you will probably have no idea what your 3RM is, so the idea of "picking something you can do for reps" isn't very applicable. At my first meet, I opened at 525 even though I had never even had that much on my back before. Every meet since then I have opened with my best from my last meet. I don't recommend that, though! I would say take something that you know you could do on a bad day. This is where working up for some heavy singles on dynamic day can help. I knew I could box squat at least 450 before my first meet, so I figured 525 wouldn't be a problem. Since then, I have just opened high enough to be able to take medium jumps so I could get my goal. I opened at 705 at my last meet because I wanted a shot at 804 if given the opportunity. I did 705 at my last meet for a PR, but knew I had a lot left in me. RB: Just make sure that it's a weight you have lifted a ton of times in training; be very confident with the lift. The best way to do this is to pick a max effort weight that is usually your 90% lift - the lift you know you're going to get easy before you head to your max attempts. A good example for me is around 440 on the bench. When I am training, I know no matter how terrible I feel I can always hit 440, and after that, it's really time to focus. If i can hit it in the gym feeling average, I can certainly nail it in a meet with the adrenaline and ephedrine flowing and focus at an all-time high. Plus, it's not far off my best, and screw up my total too bad... TD: Your opener should be 100% I can make it with the flu and explosive diarrhea. Your second should be very close to a max, but you're very confident with it. The third is for placing, PRs, or goals (e.g. 500 deadlift). Remember to be honest with your self. Don't attempt hopes. You've trained and should therefore know what's possible. SC: I talked about this in my laundry list of novice mistakes. The first attempt should be extremely easy: something the lifter has tripled in the gym. The second lift should be something the lifter can confidently single in the gym. The third attempt should be something slightly greater than what the lifter has done in the gym. Equipment problems, strict judging, nerves, etc. can make an easy triple turn into a grueling single. EC: Good stuff, gentlemen. A lot of federations will give newbie lifters fourth attempts if they make their first three. This is also the case with going for records, but most newbies aren't shooting for records in their first meets. Nonetheless, if you you’re your first three and feel like you have more left in the tank, ask for a fourth. It won't count toward your total, but it'll be nice to go home knowing that you didn't leave a ton of weight on the platform. Now, let's talk planning; how far in advance should squat and bench cycles be planned? JF: For beginners, I don't think it matters much. Once you get a little more advanced, it should be a little more structured. For my last two meets I have done three weeks of chains, three weeks of blue bands, deload, four weeks of circa max, and then a deload week before the meet. This has worked very well for me. For my dynamic bench, I just alternate bands and chains every three weeks ending with either chains or straight weight. For my other days, I just rotate my max effort exercises. For beginners, I would just use an undulating wave every three weeks ending with a deload week before the meet. After you get more advanced, you will have to decide when you want to add in circa max phases and things of that nature. RB: Twelve weeks is great. One thing that I need to take into account is the bar; even though I have a Texas squat bar, it still beats up my shoulders really bad, so I want to spend as little time under it as I can. If you have 16-24 weeks before a meet, use the safety squat bar or a cambered squat bar for 12 weeks or so. What I like to do is alternate the bars each week for dynamic squats for 8-12 weeks after a training cycle; both these bars really bring up weakness, so after these cycles you will be a lot stronger with a regular bar. The first time I did this last fall, I got about a 60-pound increase from one six-week cycle with each bar. You will, however, need about 12-14 weeks with a regular bar to get your groove back. During this time, get under some band tension and work on your specific weakness such as strength-speed and speed-strength. The best specific meet dynamic squat cycle I have used is Jim Wendler's Squat Training: A Different Perspective. TD: Eight weeks would be sufficient. If you're farther out, just do two cycles. SC: At my gym, most guys shoot for a solid 12-15 week training cycle leading into a meet. This number comes from years of experience combined with how most of our squat cycles are structured (5 week mini-cycles). It allows for a week or two of adjustment if things get screwed up, too. Basically, it’s enough time to get done what we’d like to get done, and if that can’t happen, there’s enough time to get done what HAS to be done. EC: How do you structure your training in the week after a meet? I found that I was able to get back to work sooner with my bench work, but the posterior chain took considerably longer to recover. I hit my first bench session three days after the meet for a repetition day, and got back to a light dynamic squatting session five days after the competition. The days in between were reserved for some GPP, extra work for my upper back, swimming, hot tub, and even some EMS. JF: If you did things right, you just put in at least 12 weeks of very intensive training with a meet at the end. Take some time off! You more than likely won't have a meet for at least another 12 weeks, so who cares what you do? I see guys saying that they are going to do this or that when in reality not going to the gym at all may be the best thing for them to do. I usually take at least until Wednesday off. After my last meet, I went to the gym and did some sets of five on reverse band presses…that was all I did! On Friday, I would do my dynamic squat with straight weight going really light. I might only use 345 or so…something easy. Then, on Sunday (dynamic bench day) I would get things back to normal. RB: Eat and sleep. I have found swimming to be great for recovery; treading water is great GPP and helps me recover TD: The week after a meet I either go light or don't train at all. I recommend doing other active things to get away from lifting. It also gives you a little reflection time for your accomplishments or mistakes. SC: In my case, post-meet training, at least for a week, usually consists of light recovery work. I normally begin speed work in the second week after a meet, and won’t do a true max effort single until the end of that second week, or the beginning of the third week after the meet. EC: Can newbies compete too often? Is there a time to just can competing for a bit and focus on training? I couldn't wait to get back under the bar after my first meet in spite of the fact that I knew my body needed to recover; I felt like I had learned too much about what I needed to do to be more successful to be sitting around! JF: I think beginners should compete at least every 12 weeks or so. Obviously it is going to be limited by what is around you. You might have to travel. For my last two meets, I have traveled a total of 22 hours. I think the training that you do the weeks before a meet are much better than "normal" weeks of just training. Motivation is higher and you are more likely to put in that extra effort. A beginner's level is so low, that they are not likely to get burned out by competing more often. I competed five times last year and my total went up over 300lbs. I don't think it hurt me any. I don't feel that you should consider limiting your competitions until you hit Elite status. RB: Money and time are the limiting factors. I live in Indiana and only do APF and IPA meets, but there aren't any meets in this state for those federations. So, for me to go to a APF or IPA meet, we're talking about a $300-500 or so weekend. I got to school full-time and work part-time, so money isn't falling off trees for me. I had an injury this year that prevented me from doing my most recent planned meet, but it's proven valuable in that it's an opportunity to continue to train and get stronger over the next few months before I compete again. The PR goals will still be reached regardless of whether I do four meets this year or one. So, for me it's really financial; if I am going to spend the money, I want to be 100%. TD: For a new guy, I'd think up to four times a year. Many lifters of all abilities do up to that many competitions. A newbie does have to get out there to learn the ropes, so they may need to do a meet or two more each year than a more advanced guy. SC: Yes, and yes. If there are technical problems and/or injuries occurring in a lifter, time should be taken to remedy these issues before serious meet training takes place. If the lifter is anything like me, the entire preparation, and completion of a meet can be very taxing from a mental standpoint from about 10 weeks out from the meet until it’s over. If this is the case, mental recovery is also something a lifter - newbie or not - needs to consider. Although newbies normally can, and probably should, compete a bit more often than a seasoned pro, they should take the time necessary between meets to recover, evaluate, and properly prepare for another meet. A decent number to shoot for is probably around 3-5 meets a year for most lifters new to the sport. EC: That's some excellent information, guys; thanks for helping out with this. I'm sure that a lot of newbies out there will benefit from it. Just as importantly, they won't annoy the more experienced lifters with silly questions at their first meets! Then again, when it comes to the pre-meet time period, the only stupid question is the one that isn't asked.
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An Interview with Mike Roussell

By: Eric Cressey

Mike Roussell is one of my few "go-to" guys in the world of nutrition, and you can count on hearing a lot more from him in the months and years to come.  Mike is very unique in his academic background, real-world experience, and - perhaps most importantly - the passion he brings to the industry.  Last week, I was a guest on his show (www.MaxOutRadio.com), so it seems only fitting that he gets to drop some knowledge bombs on my readers this week with an interview in our newsletter. EC: Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to be with us today.  I know quite a bit about you, but I'm sure our readers would like to hear a bit more about where you are, where you've been, and where you're going.  Tell us your life story. MR: Okay, this will probably bore everyone except my mother and my wife, but here I go. I played just about every sport growing up and eventually blew out my knee in high school. I picked up Muscle & Fitness one day while in rehab and the rest is history. I have a B.S. in biochemistry and have spent a good deal of time doing organic chemistry synthesis. After college, I went to medical school, but halfway through my first year I knew it wasn’t for me and that wanted to pursue nutrition full time. So I left medical school and got a job in a biochemistry lab along with a position that allowed me to actually develop the nutrition curriculum for first year medical students at University of Vermont. During this time, I applied to nutrition graduate schools. I’m now at Penn State studying to receive my PhD in Nutrition. During this whole academic journey, I have always been busy working with people and their nutrition, body composition, and performance goals. That’s what I love. I love seeing people succeed - helping them achieve their best body. There is no feeling better than when a client shares with you a story about how someone noticed changes in their body. You can see it in the client’s face and hear it in their voice how great it made them feel. It is special to be able to help people with that. I’m lucky. EC: All our readers can insert the obligatory “awwww” as if there were playing with a puppy. I, on the other hand, will start right off with a tough question. I just wrote a two-part article about what I learned/did differently in 2006; what were a few of your “epiphanies” last year? MR: 1. Butter is good. I realized that I don’t eat enough saturated fat. Chances are that you might not either. I’m big on olive oil, nuts, and avocados – all of which are great, but they weren’t giving me enough saturated fat. I was down at around 4% of total calories from saturated fat. I’ve doubled that now that I use butter on a regular basis. Plus, it makes food taste so good. 2. Alwyn Cosgrove is a sadist. I realized this after doing six weeks of his Afterburn II program. 3. It is important to write your goals in the present tense and keep them at the front of your mind. 4. It is really important not to blindly believe the things that you believe. I’m a big fan of fish oil and no matter how much I believe that fish oil is anti-inflammatory, we really have no idea how it works its anti-inflammatory magic. I was really stuck on the traditional way of thinking about fish oil’s mode of action, but the research says the opposite and there are a lot of people out there that refuse to see this. 5. It is better to embrace reality than fight it. Chances are you already know the answer to a problem with which you are struggling, but you don’t like it, so you are waiting for a new one. Let’s take diet, for example. Many people eat like crap on the weekends and it kills their progress. They know they don’t stick to their meal plan over the weekend, but they continue to look for the new diet, supplement, or guru that will allow them to achieve their goal. Just clean up how you eat on the weekends, and you’ll be amazed at the results. 6. You can never read too many books especially, in areas about which you know nothing. EC: I managed to escape academia, but you’re still up to your neck in it. What’s new in the lab? Have you won your Nobel Prize yet? MR: Well, over winter break, I just finished a review article on lifestyle interventions that affect HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). It is going to come out in the first edition of a new journal called the Journal of Clinical Lipidology. Basically, the best way to increase your good cholesterol is to have 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day. This will increase HDL-C by about 7%. Exercise only increases HDL-C by about 4%, and when you lose weight, your HDL-C actually goes down! However, once your weight loss stabilizes, your HDL-C will increase by about 4% from where it was before the weight loss. I’m also working on a grant for the USDA that involves giving people fish oil and monitoring various biomarkers – but I won’t bore your readers with the details. One more thing: there is a really cool type of compound called Resolvins that are created in the body when you take aspirin and fish oil together. It could be the responsible for the anti-inflammatory actions of fish oil (that means we’ve all been wrong about fish oil’s mechanism of action). There has been essentially no work in humans with these compounds, so I have some plans to do some work with Resolvins and humans subjects this spring – again, really cool stuff (in a serious science nerd way). So, as you can see, I am definitely up to my neck in academia! EC: Where are most people missing the boat when it comes to nutrition in terms of: a) general health b) physique improvements c) performance enhancement? MR: Overall, people are missing the boat with compliance and not sticking to their plan. Generally, they eat too many starches – and at the wrong times. a) General Health – Not taking high quality fish oil or getting enough of a variety of fruits and vegetables. b) Physique Improvements – Undereating. This crashes your metabolism and makes fat loss really tough. The same goes for building lean tissue. If you aren’t growing even though you “eat a lot,” you need to eat more. c) Performance Enhancement – Under recovery. Performance athletes really beat up their bodies. This places unique metabolic stressors on their system that proper nutrition can almost erase. Protein and carbs during and after a workout is a must. Total calories are also very important, but they need to be good calories. It drives me nuts when athletes put tons of effort into training but the guy behind the counter at McDonald’s knows them by name! EC: As I’ve done in previous newsletter interviews, I’m going to ask you to give me your top five training/nutrition resources for people looking to take their knowledge to the next level. MR: Here are my top five not in any particular order. I’ve actually read all of these books several times. 1. Enter the Zone, by Barry Sears – This book lays a great foundation of the effects of different macronutrients and the power of food. 2. The Anabolic Diet (now called The Anabolic Solution) – This book is a classic and definitely the most popular low carb diet in the weight lifting world. 3. Nutrient Timing by Drs. Ivy & Portman – This is a great resource on the biggest breakthrough in sports nutrition. 4. Precision Nutrition by John Berardi – John does a great job of laying out how you should structure your nutritional approach. I currently use this will all my clients. 5. Naked Nutrition – This is the nutrition manual that I just published - and I know you liked it! EC: Yes, it was fantastic.  Can you tell our readers a bit more about it? MR: Here’s the thing: personally, I do not enjoy writing out meal plans. I love doing phone consults and working with people, but making meal plans isn’t any fun. So, I decided to put the entire step-by-step system that I use to develop meal plans for people into a manual. I also go into great detail about how to adjust your meal plan depending on your goals; that is the heart of the manual. I also lay out my “Six Pillars of Proper Nutrition,” how to maximize nutrient timing, how to prioritize and plan supplementation depending on goals, and a bunch more. EC: Sounds like a definite winner and something that’s really needed. Be sure to keep us posted on its release! Where can our readers find out more about you? MR:  I have a main website, www.MikeRoussell.com, where I host my newsletter, blog, product reviews, articles, and my nutrition coaching.  They can check out the Naked Nutrition Manual here. a.link:link {font:bold 11px Arial;color:000000; text-decoration:none;} a.link:visited {font:bold 11px Arial;color:000000; text-decoration:none;} a.link:hover {font:bold 11px Arial;color:000000; text-decoration:none;} td.link {padding:2px 10px 2px 10px; cursor:hand;} font.divider {font:11px Arial; color:666666} div.body {font:14px arial; color:000000;} body {font:13px arial; color:000000;} td {font:13px arial; color:000000;} a:link {color:0000cc;} a:visited {color:990099;} a:hover {color:cc0000}
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An Interview with Mike Robertson

By: Eric Cressey

In light of all the projects on which we’ve collaborated, a lot of people seem to have come to the conclusion that Mike Robertson and I are the same person.  I guess that’s what we get for co-authoring ten articles together and co-producing the Magnificent Mobility DVD.  I figured that the best way to clear up any confusion about our unique identities would be to interview him.  If it helps, read the text below aloud, and use a Midwestern drawl for Mike’s voice, and a pseudo-Boston accent for me.  If you’re a visual learner, you might want to alternate an Indianapolis Colts hat with a New England Patriots one at the same time. EC: Hey Mike, thanks for agreeing to do this.  I know you like the back of my hand, but our readers don’t.  Fill them in a bit on your background; I’m sure you get questions all the time about how you got to where you are.  Who inspired you? MR: Wow Eric, there’s been so many people along the way, to name just one or two wouldn’t really be prudent.  However, if I had to name a few people that have significantly impacted the way I view and approach training and nutrition, I’d have to say yourself, Alwyn Cosgrove, Dave Tate, John Berardi, Mike Boyle, Joe DeFranco, Jim Wendler, Ian King, Stuart McGill, Bill Hartman, and Shirley Sahrmann. As you can tell, I’ve got everything from physical therapists to elite-level strength coaches, but all have taught me something or significantly influenced my thinking in one way or another.  In fact, I think you need to learn from as many disciplines as possible to truly understand how the body works. EC:  What frustrates you the most about this industry? MR: Two things about this industry really annoy me.  They are: 1. People who have no business training people for athletics.  These people know who they are; whether they are PTs that “wanna’ be” strength coaches, to strength coaches who just don’t know what the hell they are talking about, these people piss me off.  They typically get by with either “smoke and mirrors” training, or by yelling incessantly at their athletes to “work harder.”  While this may sound contradictory to my next point, running your athletes into the ground doesn’t make you a good strength coach; it makes you a schmuck. 2. Lazy people.  This can include people who are too lazy to train themselves, people who are too lazy to keep learning, or people that feel like others should help them “catch a break.”  I have no sympathy for people like this:  I firmly believe you create your own destiny by doing the right things and busting your ass. I always say that I could write a killer training book about training hard (the REAL key to success) and no one would buy it.  Why?  People who are already training hard know it’s the key to their success and my book isn’t going to make a difference.  People that aren’t training hard are going to think I’m full of s**t and that it’s their training or diet habits that are holding them back.  In other words, they always find some other factor that’s the cause for their failure. Simply put, hard work is the difference between people of similar abilities. EC:  What’s a typical training week look like for you? MR: Since I had my knee scoped last June, my training has been all over the place.  I was approaching (or exceeding) all my previous PRs this past December, but my body had taken on numerous compensations from the surgery.  Even though I don’t feel like I rushed back into things whatsoever, between the surgery and the actual injury that caused it four months earlier, my body was getting very good at doing some very bad things. Over the past few months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to clean up my posture and recruitment patterns so I can get back on the platform stronger and healthier than ever before.  My current programming looks like this: Tuesday:  Lower Body (typically ME work) Thursday:  ME Upper Body Friday or Saturday:  Accessory Lower Body Sunday:  Accessory Upper Body I’m currently performing a specific mobility circuit that Bill Hartman gave me on a daily basis to re-groove my squat motor pattern and get it back to where it needs to be. EC: Now, your wife is a dietician; how has that impacted the way you eat and approach nutrition with clients and athletes? MR: Well it’s definitely impacted my wallet and my waistline; when I met her I was a svelt 170 pounds! Seriously, though, I’ve always been interested in nutrition, but she has the amazing ability to meld the science and the practice.  She’s an amazing cook to begin with, so she has the ability to take the right foods and actually make them taste great.  I think too many people think that “healthy” food has to taste like garbage, and that’s just not right.  Maybe someday I’ll actually convince her to put all her recipes into an e-book for publication. Also, I think if you’re serious about training and don’t take the steps to cover your nutritional bases, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure.  Whether you’re a bodybuilder, powerlifter, Olympic lifter, strongman, or just someone who wants to improve your physique, you have to respect the power of nutrition and supplementation.  If you don’t, please don’t expect to see exceptional results in the gym. EC: Name five people you feel everyone should see speak. MR: 1)      Alwyn Cosgrove 2)      Dave Tate 3)      Mike Boyle 4)      John Berardi 5)      Anyone who knows more about your profession than you do (even if they don’t have the same outlook as you) EC: How about books and DVDs?  What are your top ten library “must-have” choices? MR: 1) Supertraining – Mel Siff 2) Science and Practice of Strength Training -Vladimir Zatsiorsky 3) Functional Strength Coach – Mike Boyle 4) Professional Fitness Coach Program Design Manual – Alwyn Cosgrove 5) Magnificent Mobility – Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson (These guys are geniuses…or so I’ve heard!) 6) Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance - McGill 7) Precision Nutrition - Berardi 8) Gourmet Nutrition - Berardi 9) Parisi Deceleration Method - Parisi Speed School 10) Charlie Francis FAST Seminar Series EC: If you had to pick five things our readers could do right now to become better lifters/athletes/coaches/trainers, what would they be? MR: 1. Start getting some soft tissue work done! As Mike Boyle says, “If you aren’t doing something to improve tissue quality, you might as well stop stretching, too.”  I firmly agree with him on this point, and while it may cost a few bucks, it’s going to help keep you healthy and hitting PR’s.  This could be as simple as foam rolling, or as extreme as getting some intense deep tissue massage or myofascial release done.  I’ve tried it all and all of it has its place. 2. Don’t neglect mobility work! Ever since we released our Magnificent Mobility DVD, people are finally starting to see all the benefits of a proper warm-up that includes dynamic flexibility/mobility work.  However, just because you understand the benefits doesn’t mean squat if you aren’t doing it!  Take the time to get it done before every training session, and even more frequently if need be. < 3. Understand functional anatomy Again, you and I (along with many others), have preached this for quite some time, but I’m not sure enough people really understand how the human body works.  Hell, I think I do, and then I get into some of these intense anatomy and PT related books and find out tons of new info! Along these same lines, if you don’t understand functional anatomy, you really have no business writing training programs, whether they’re for yourself or for others.  That may sound harsh, but for whatever reason people read a couple copies of Muscle and Fiction and think they can write programs.  I’ve fixed enough broken people to know that very few people can integrate the functional anatomy into what amounts to functional programming (and no, that doesn’t include wobble boards, Airex pads, etc.). 4. Train to get stronger While I’m all for all the other stuff that goes into training (proper recovery, mobility work, soft tissue work, conditioning, etc.), I think too many people want all the bells and whistles but forget about the basics.  GET YOUR ATHLETES STRONG!  Here’s the analogy that I use: performance coaches are asked to balance their training so that the athlete: a) improves performance and b) stays healthy.  What I see right now is a ton of coaches that focus on all this posture and prehab stuff, but their athletes aren’t really that much better anyway.  You have to work on both end of the spectrum. Think about it like this:  Let’s say you have this huge meathead that’s super strong but has no flexibility, mobility or conditioning, then throw him on the field.  He may last for a while, but eventually he’s going to get hurt, right?  You haven’t covered the spectrum. But what’s the opposite situation?  We have the coach who focuses on posture, prehab, etc., and the athlete has “optimal” muscle function but is weak as a kitten.  Are you telling me this kid isn’t at a disadvantage when he steps on the field or on the court?  Again, you haven’t covered the spectrum. In other words, feel free to do all the right things, but don’t forget about simply getting stronger; as you’ve said, it’s our single most precious training commodity. 5. Keep learning! I’m not going to harp too much on this one; simply put, you need to always be expanding your horizons and looking to new places for answers.  There’s a plethora of training knowledge out there, and what you don’t know can come back to haunt you.  I believe it was Ghandi who said, “Live like today was your last, but learn like you will live forever.”  That’s pretty solid advice in my book (and hopefully the last quote I’ll throw in!) EC: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your training and professional careers?  Looking back, what would you do differently? MR: It may sound cheesy, but I don’t look at mistakes as mistakes; I look at them as learning opportunities.  First and foremost, I wouldn’t have tried to learn to snow ski at the age of 27!  This little stunt has set me back almost a year of training and left me with 20% less shock absorption in my left knee.  Not the best idea, if you ask me. But, instead of looking at it solely as a negative, it’s caused me to really re-examine my own training and thought process.  As well, I really dug in so I now have a much better understanding of the knee, as well as how to rehabilitate knee injuries (and what causes them).  So while I could piss and moan ‘til the cows come home, the fact of the matter is I’m really not much worse off and I have a much better understanding of myself and the human body. EC: Where do you see yourself in a few years, and how would you like to be remembered way down the road? MR: Ideally, at some point I’d love to have a training facility geared toward athletes.  Whether it’s my own or partnered up with the right people doesn’t really matter.  This would not only allow me to do what I’m passionate about, but give me a solid place to train myself.  Every day I train at the commercial gym here in Indy a little part of me dies. However, I must admit I really enjoy all the “extra-curricular” stuff I do as well: writing articles, producing info products, and giving seminars.  I feel like the personal training/performance coaching allows me to keep in touch with what works and allows me to affect people on a small, intimate scale.  On the other hand, the extracurricular stuff opens the doors to a huge number of people, all of whom can directly benefit from the things I’ve learned.  In my eyes, it’s the best of both worlds. As for being remembered, I just hope a person or two out there does remember me!  The best thing anyone can say about me is that I influenced their life or athletic career for the better.  I genuinely love what I do and the people with whom I work, and I think people can feel that whether it’s me coaching them, writing for them, or speaking to them at a seminar. EC: Feel free to use the space below to shamelessly plug all of your products and services. MR: Well I’m sure we’ve talked about it ad nauseum, but if you haven’t picked up a copy of our Magnificent Mobility DVD, you need to get it done NOW.  You’ll never look at warming-up the same!  You and I also have a huge seminar coming up in June at the Peak Performance facility in NYC, and I’m sure it’s going to turn some heads as to how people evaluate and train their clients.  Finally, I’m not even going to get into our “little book” until we make some headway! Next, Bill Hartman and myself are working on the Inside-Out DVD and manual, which will cover a lot of upper body concepts that I don’t think many people have examined.  Bill is an amazing PT, so I really feel this is going to do for the upper body what Magnificent Mobility does for the hips. Finally, feel free to come check out my website and sign-up for my FREE NEWSLETTER, which is sent out monthly.  You can check out my website at www.robertsontrainingsystems.com, and you can sign up for the newsletter by sending me an e-mail at mike@robertsontrainingsystems.com with “Subscribe” in the subject line. EC: Lots of stuff on the agenda, and I’m sure that it’ll all be top-notch.  Thanks for taking the time, Mike. MR: Thanks a ton for having me, EC!
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An Interview with Michael Stare

By: Eric Cressey

As you’ve probably already surmised by now, I’m always looking to meet new physical therapists who are effective at bridging the gap between healthy and injured athletes. The sad truth is that just as there aren’t many trainers/coaches who really understand musculoskeletal dysfunction and the resulting pathology, there aren’t many PTs who really understand what an athlete puts his/her body through on a daily basis. Let’s just say that I’m lucky to have found Mike Stare, and it’s just my luck that he’s right up the road from me here in Massachusetts. Mike is a brilliant PT and trainer from whom you can expect to hear a lot more in the months and years to come; we’re already brainstorming on some projects together. Here’s a small sample of the great information Mike has to offer; as I told Mike, I think it’s some of the best information we’ve had in any interview at EricCressey.com thus far.

EC: Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to join us today. Before we get cracking with the interview, could you tell us a bit about who you are, where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going?

MS: I’m a Physical Therapist and a CSCS, practicing with Orthopaedics Plus in Beverly, MA, as well as Director of Spectrum Fitness Consulting, also in Beverly.

My early years as an oft injured and undersized athlete landed me in the orthopedists’ office far too often. After a serious neck injury from football, I found myself in Physical Therapy for several weeks. That experience really opened up my eyes and I decided that I wanted to pursue a career as a PT.

I studied kinesiology at the University of Illinois, and began working as a personal trainer for the division of campus recreation. I also worked with the spinal cord athletes there, and had an opportunity to travel to the 1996 Paralympic games to work with spinal cord injured athletes. I moved East to pursue a Masters of Science in Physical Therapy at Boston University. I continued to work as a personal trainer with the Boston Sports Clubs and obtained the CSCS while I was in grad school. I also had the opportunity to help develop and teach a training curriculum for the trainers at BSC.

After graduation, I worked in an outpatient rehab hospital where I saw the full spectrum of conditions. I treated a C5 quadriplegic who was more athletic the most people I know, a lady who had both legs amputated from her pelvis (best pair of arms on a 60 year old I ever saw and a heart of gold), bodybuilders with overuse injuries, chronic low back pain - you name it – I saw it. It was a phenomenal learning experience, but I knew that I needed to focus in order to hone my expertise. So I choose to concentrate on orthopedics, and jumped on board with Orthopaedics Plus.

I returned to graduate school part-time while working full time as a clinician to finish my Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and then completed a two-year fellowship in orthopaedic manual therapy. That was an invaluable experience; I learned from what I truly believe to be the greatest minds in Physical Therapy.

I had moved away from personal training while pursuing my post-graduate studies, and I really missed it. As a clinician, I grew frustrated with the fact that many of my patients were seeing me for injuries or conditions that could have been prevented if they had received the proper training or education. I thought I was going to lose my mind if I saw another 16-year-old girl with excessive genu valgum and the glute strength of a mosquito limping in after ACL reconstruction waiting to get back to her three soccer leagues.

I decided that I needed to provide a service that would not only help people recover from their injury, but also reduce their injury risk and enhance their performance and health. As a result, in partnership with Orthopaedics Plus, I formed Spectrum Fitness Consulting this past January. We focus on providing personal training services, as well as sports conditioning for young athletes. Our studio is located adjacent to the PT clinic, which facilitates me working as both a clinician and a trainer.

We are rapidly growing and have some excellent new programs coming soon. I’m looking forward to finding some quality trainers to help us grow, as well as expanding our reach throughout the North Shore region, developing more of a web presence, and hopefully perform some research in the near future For now, I’m trying to stay focused on getting things done right, keep my head from spinning off, and enjoy hanging out with my new baby and my wife as often as possible.

EC: The first chapter of your memoirs is now officially complete; congratulations! Moving on…you’ve done quite a bit of research on preventing elbow injuries in young pitchers; what have you got for us?

MS: Last fall I had the opportunity to mentor a Doctoral Student from BU. We found some great info about elbow and shoulder injuries in young baseball pitchers. Among some of the most notable findings:

· Injuries in young pitchers most often involve the growth plates, as opposed to the rotator cuff, labrum, or ligaments commonly seen in adults

· The growth plates are the weakest link in the joint complex in young pitchers.

· Growth plates in the elbow are open until about 16 and until 19-22 in the shoulder.

· Injury to the growth plate is very difficult to detect, except in severe cases. Thus, early and appropriate response to pain is critical.

· Pitch counts and pitch types are associated with risk of elbow and shoulder injury. Researchers from the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) have given specific recommendations for pitch type and count based on their findings. For example, a sample of 476 9-14 year olds who threw curve balls had a 56% increased risk for shoulder pain and those who threw sliders had an 86% increased risk for elbow pain. A sample of 330 9-12 year olds showed increased incidence of elbow and shoulder injury occurred with:

1) Those who threw >75 pitches/game or 600/season

2) Pitched in multiple leagues

3) Experienced arm pain during the season

4) Pitched less than 300 pitches per season.

EC: Very interesting; we often hear about throwing too much as being a problem, but some kids were actually having problems from not throwing enough pitches and then going out to “turn it loose?” In other words, is that 300-600 pitches/season number precedent for a “golden pitch count rule?”

MS: No, I don’t consider it as a golden rule. Rather, it should provide a basis from which coaches, clinicians, and researchers can begin to establish the boundaries between what is too much stimulus for a developing arm, and what is not enough stimulus to facilitate enhanced motor skill and optimal conditioning.

The research from ASMI and others is merely revealing initial data about factors that correlate with shoulder and elbow injury, not cause the injuries. Pitch counts are a convenient way to quantify arm stress, but they are far from perfect. The research regarding this topic is still very new and continues to evolve. Pitch counts are just one of the many factors related to increased risk. I think focusing on a firm pitch count for the season may be a problem in that it relieves the coaches, parents, etc., of responsibility of considering other variables that may also indicate increased risk, essentially, providing a false sense of security.

It still isn’t clear why pitching less than 300/season was associated with risk of arm injuries. Perhaps those who threw less had less skill, and thus imposed greater stress upon their arms. Maybe they were less conditioned. Or perhaps, as you mentioned, they progressed their volume of throwing too quickly. The higher risk with throwing greater than 600 seems more obvious – perhaps it was just too much?

Regardless, I think the problem is not simply about too many pitches or too few pitches in games over the season. There seems to be a trend towards kids playing in less informal settings, and more often in competitive settings. This has some significant implications. Less informal play means less opportunity for honing the motor skill of throwing. Motor learning is best developed by practicing frequently, in small chunks of time, at initially lower intensities. This is what is typically done through informal play.

There is a big difference between how you throw in a competitive game situation versus while practicing or playing catch with friends. Thus, kids are in more frequent situations that place higher stresses on the arm, while spending less time improving their motor skills. Given this trend, I think it becomes clear why the incidence of arm injuries is one the rise.

Improving their conditioning and responding to the early warning signs of injury would substantially offset this higher risk. Combined with coaches focusing more on teaching the skill of throwing, while gradually increasing the volume and intensity of throwing, the incidence of arm injuries could be greatly reduced. Rather than just focusing on the pitch count, I suggest coaches and parents also simply rate velocity and control each inning, as well as observe any other signs of a change in mechanics or taking more time between pitches. This will be more effective than just quantifying pitch count.

EC: Great stuff – sorry to interrupt. What else have you got?


· Certain flaws in pitching mechanics will predispose the shoulder or elbow to greater stress. For example, excessive shoulder rotation at initial contact of the stride leg, and a more cross body horizontal arm follow-through leads to increased torque on the elbow.

· The humerus rotates up to 7000 degrees per second in from late cocking phase to acceleration phase, and the arm experiences a distraction force of up to 1.5 the athlete’s bodyweight during the deceleration phase

· Clinicians and surgeons are reporting a 5-6 fold increase in pitching related elbow and shoulder injuries in youth pitchers. I’ve seen too many kids devastated by realizing that their throwing careers are over at age 15, recovering from their second arm surgery. There’s too much information out there; we need to apply it.

EC: Agreed! So why aren’t more trainers and coaches putting this information into practice?

MS: Although we found some great info about kinematics, kinetics, and epidemiology, there was very little information about conditioning or training strategies. It was implied by almost every researcher, but never thoroughly discussed. That is were my “Young Guns” program comes in. Our program will be the only that I’m aware of that will emphasize not only the preventative strategies via pitch count, pitch type, and throwing mechanic alterations, but also implement specific conditioning strategies. As with so many other conditions, the ability to generate and translate force through out the entire kinetic chain, as well as efficiently decelerate, correlates with improved performance and reduced injury. I think this reasoning applies perfectly to throwing athletes, and they should be trained accordingly.

EC: Great stuff; I’m sure it’ll be fantastic. How about correcting injuries once they’re in place? Any rehab tips for those who already have bum elbows?

MS: The injured tissue must be identified first. This is especially important for young athletes, as growth plates are particularly vulnerable. Treating a growth plate injury will be much different than treating a lateral epicondylopathy. Seeing an orthopedist who specializes in elbows and shoulders – together with a PT with a manual therapy background – is your best bet.

Next, identify the cause of the problem. It’s always easier to investigate a crime closest to when it was committed. The irritating factors must be modified or avoided.

Look at the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips for mobility deficits. Inadequate mobility at any of the joints along the kinetic chain can result in greater compensatory mobility demands upon the more vulnerable elbow joint, leading to excessive strain and ultimately injury.

If soft tissues of the elbow are involved, such as is the case with tendonopathy of the common extensor (lateral epicondylopathy) or common flexor (medial epicondylopathy) tendons, deep tissue massage is very effective. It doesn’t feel so good initially, but it works. Usually, you can do it yourself; just follow the tendons starting about ½ inch from the origin, and deeply massage with small amplitude parallel and perpendicular to the tendons.

Joint mobilization is also very effective at restoring normal mobility and promoting joint healing – but you’ll need a skilled therapist for that. For less acute injuries, very high repetition, low load exercise can be effective at improving tensile qualities and promoting healing.

The common practice of applying ice shouldn’t be overlooked. Ice massage is very easy and effective. Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the edges, and rub the effected area for about 5-10 minutes.

EC: My favorite part is that you never recommended non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). We know we’re dealing with degenerative, not inflammatory conditions, so these interventions have little merit aside of pain relief, which is better accomplished with ice anyway. All those NSAIDs are just inhibiting the healing process and giving people a false sense of good health, leading them to throw the tissue back into the fire much too soon. Would you agree? (You’re not allowed to disagree, for the record; this is my newsletter!)

MS: I absolutely agree, and not just because I fear being chastised like your friend Hugo from a few newsletters ago! Soft tissue injuries have often been labeled as tendonitis, the –itis suffix inferring an inflammatory pathology. However, histological studies consistently fail to find markers indicative of inflammation with these conditions, leading to the increasing use of the appropriate term tendonopathy instead. This is more than a semantics issue. As you mention, taking an anti-inflammatory to treat something that does not have an inflammatory pathology may yield unnecessary risks and hinder healing. Recent research has demonstrated impaired bone healing in conjunction with NSAID usage. This is particularly important if bone pathology is suspected, as often is the case with young pitchers having a high incidence of growth plate injuries

EC: This has been fantastic stuff, Mike; thanks for taking the time. Where can our readers find out more about you?

MS: It’s my pleasure Eric, anytime. I can be reached at mike@spectrumfit.net, and your readers can learn more about Spectrum Fitness Consulting, the Young Guns program, and myself at www.spectrumfit.net.

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