Home Posts tagged "Jim Smith" (Page 2)

Random Friday Thoughts: 5/29/09

1. It's a big weekend around here with lots going on.  First off, my lovely fiancee Anna is graduating from the New England College of Optometry this weekend.  That's right, folks; in spite of eight years of schooling that culminates with her becoming "doctor," she was still clueless enough to marry a bonehead like me.  I guess they can't teach you everything in school. Just kidding, honey; I know I'm awesome in every way.  And really proud of you. 2. Saturday, there are pre-graduation ceremonies.  Unfortunately, out of fear of "poking an eye out," these ceremonies will be devoid of pin the tail on the donkey, darts, wiffleball, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Twister.  Instead, the future eye docs will participate in staring contests and heated "Corneal Abrasion Bingo" contests. 3. Saturday also happens to be a big day for Massachusetts high school baseball playoff games.  We've got loads of guys participating, so I'll just say good luck to everyone. 4. Tony Gentilcore is moving to a new apartment this weekend, too.  I just checked the Vegas odds, and after today's 58 complaints about packing, the over-under on Tony's instances of pissing and moaning about moving this weekend is 847.5.  I am feeling frisky, so I'm going with the over. 5. In my newsletter on Wednesday, I raved about Jim Smith's new product, Accelerated Muscular Development.  I actually received three emails from folks thanking me for the recommendation; they all loved Jim's new product.  This is quality stuff; I encourage you to check it out.


6. A big thanks goes out to everyone who offered car-buying tips in last Friday's blog.  I picked up a new car at the beginning of this week and definitely put some of the advice to use in saving me some cash, time, and hassle.
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Accelerated Muscular Development Review: Innovative AND Effective

If you liked Maximum Strength... Then you'll love Jim Smith's Accelerated Muscular Development. I often get asked what would be a good program to use following the Maximum Strength program, and while my first answer is always a resounding Show and Go!  However, there is another excellent option out there for those who want to get outside the "Eric Cressey School of Thought."   In creating Accelerated Muscular Development, Jim "Smitty" Smith did a fantastic job of introducing a thorough e-manual that includes strength training programming, flexibility training, nutrition, recovery protocols, and detailed explanations that put overly "sciency" concepts in an understandable and usable format.


Personally, I've always loved Jim's innovation and willingness to think outside the box. If you ask him about what makes this program so good, though, here's what he'll tell you are the top five components of a successful program: 1. Comprehensive - A good resistance training program teaches you what to do from the moment you walk into the gym, until the moment you leave. It does not just provide you with the primary strength exercises and a rep scheme. A progressive strategy must be incorporated so that by the time you are ready for your primary strength exercises, you are warmed up and ready to go. 2. Education - Do not just follow any resistance training program you get out of a magazine or on an internet forum blindly. You have to make specific and informed decisions based on your individual needs. A good program teaches you so that you can make these decisions. 3. Instruction of Proper Form and Full ROM - The strength exercises in a good resistance training program are demonstrated with proper form and instruction. It is not enough to teach the deadlift by saying "pick the weight off the floor." 4. Easy to Understand - The science behind building muscle and getting stronger is sometimes explained in a very complicated manner. These concepts are much easier to understand with visual diagrams and real world application. 5. Systematic Approach - A comprehensive strength program provides you with a systematic approach where each essential component is represented and input at the right times. This allows the lifter to make sure each activity is not forgotten or missed, which means he can concentrate on training. I'd highly encourage you to check out this product if you're looking for something new - and particularly if you enjoyed Maximum Strength.  For more information, visit www.AcceleratedMuscularDevelopment.com. In the Trenches with Eric Cressey I figured we'd go with a little change of pace this week and switch from written content to audio content, as Mike Robertson interviewed me for one of his recent newsletters.  Mike and I talk about everything from shoulder assessment, to the possible future of shoulder surgeries, to strength development, to what's new at Cressey Performance, plus a whole lot more. You can listen to the entire audio interview HERE.  Enjoy! Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Real Activation: Modifying a Classic Movement

Today, we've got a great guest blog post from Jim Smith.  Jim is the author of Combat Core, a resource about which I've raved on numerous occasions.  This guest blog is yet another example of how innovative Jim is. I utilize scapular wall slides (SWS) with my athletes because the conventional movement has a lot of benefits.  The movement should be done not only by forcibly pulling the elbows downward, but by actively forcing the elbows and back of the hands back into the wall.


Benefits: 1. activation of lower traps, rhomboids, infraspinatus and teres minor 2. dynamic stretch of the pectorals 3. great warm-up for upper back 4. improved posture 5. improved shoulder health But let's be honest, it is definitely a remedial movement.  Once it has been mastered and repeated with proficiency we must progress.  Of course we can progress to prone "Y" on the floor or on an incline bench with dumbbells, but I believe we have the opportunity to improve the benefits of the SWS. In a previous article I discussed the fact that activation is the summation of muscle contraction and neurological excitement.  To truly activate a muscle group there has to be a powerful contraction or increase the rate and frequency of motor unit recruitment.  Now with conventional SWS, the movement is slow and the activation is primarily isometric in nature. We must implement agitation to the system to truly activate the muscle.  I liken this to vibrational training, albeit at much lower frequency. Here is the modification: Have the athlete perform the SWS while holding elastic bands.  The coach will hold the band and step backward creating tension on the movement according to the athlete's current strength levels.  The coach then, as the athlete performs the movement, imparts agitation to the movement by vibrating the band in a wave pattern. The muscular activation will be exponential to the conventional movement, thereby improving and magnifying the benefits.


Jim Smith, CSCS Jim Smith, CSCS is a highly sought after lecturer, author, consultant and renowned strength coach. Jim is an expert for Men's Fitness and a member of the Elite Fitness Q/A staff. Jim's new product on how to build muscle, lose fat - all with only three short workouts a week will be out soon.  Grab their RSS feed.  Check it out!
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An Interview with Jim “Smitty” Smith

An  Interview with Jim "Smitty" Smith

By: Eric Cressey

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

Subscriber-Only Q&A: Spondylolysis and Young Athletes

I received this email a few months ago and have been meaning to turn it into a Q&A for quite some time, as spondylolysis is a topic that I think everyone should understand.

Q: I read you spoke at a seminar this sinter on the topic of spondylolysis showing up in young athletes.  I have a 16 year-old son who was diagnosed with this type of stress fracture in his lumbar spine.  He had grown 7 inches over the previous 9 months and our doctor contributed the cause to supporting muscles growth not being able to keep up with the rapid bone growth along with hyperextension of the lower back.  He has recovered quite nicely with rehab being initially rest, isolation and support of the lower back followed by core strengthening when the pain subsided. Occasionally, he will get very temporary flare up pain.  Could you please give me your opinion on the "do" and "don't" exercises that could possibly help prevent Spondylolysis from recurring and your thoughts on the subject.  Thanks for your help.

A: First off, here is some background for our readers. Spondylolysis refers to a fracture of the pars interarticularis portion of a vertebra (95% of the time, it's L5). The pars essentially connects the vertebral body in front with the vertebral joints behind. It's also known as a "Scotty Dog" fracture because the shape of the pars mirrors that of a dog - and when a fracture is present, it looks like that dog has a collar on (or has its head chopped off, depending on whether you're a glass-is-half-empty kind of person or not):

Symptoms may come on traumatically (contact injury) or insidiously (overuse, genetic predisposition, or rapid bone growth during puberty). Pain is typically more lateral to the spine than it is centralized.

We have had quite a few athletes come to us with the condition because we work with a ton of athletes in rotational sports, predominantly baseball. In my humble opinion, "spondies" are the new ACL epidemic. Don't believe me? Check out these numbers from a 2000 study from Soler and Calderon (1):

-8% of elite Spanish athletes affected

-highest prevalence (27%) in those in track & field throws

-17% of rowers, 14% of gymnasts, and 13% of weightlifters had spondylolysis

-L5 most common (84%), followed by L4 (12%).

-Multiple levels of involvement in only 3% of cases

-Bilateral 78% of the time

-Only 50-60% of those diagnosed actually reported low back pain

-Males and females affected equally (although associated spondylolisthesis - or vertebral "slippage" was higher in females)

-Presence of spondylolysis is estimated at 15-63%, with the highest prevalence among weightlifters.

I suspect that these rates are even higher now (eight years later) - and in the U.S., where we have additional rotational and contact sports (as compared to Spain). These numbers - particularly the 40-50% asymptomatic figure - speak directly to the fact that inefficiency is on-par with (if not more important than) the spondylolysis pathology itself. Multiple inefficiencies are to blame for this specific pathology - and many people are just waiting to reach threshold. With that in mind, to be honest, I train all of our athletes under the assumption that they all have a disc herniation or vertebral fracture that we don't even know about - simply because, according to the research, that's probably the case! There are more opportunities than ever to participate in organized sports, yet athletes don't train any more than previously - and DO spend more time sitting.

In fact, about 14 million people - or 3-7% of the general population - have spondylolysis (2), and previous research as shown that asymptomatic disc bulges and herniations may be up in the 80% range (3).

These issues - combined with the fact that 4.4% of six-year-olds present with pars defects - has led to a standard rule in sports medicine where any adolescent athlete with lumbar spine pain for more than three days duration is referred for a bone scan to rule out a fracture. If a pars defect is detected, most doctors will prescribe 12-16 weeks in a back brace: a practice that, while controversial, has yielded favorable healing results.

Risk factors for pars defects have been subdivided into intrinsic and extrinsic. The "*" indicates that these factors are at least partially under our control as strength and conditioning coaches and trainers:


-Poor bone mineral density (*)

-Poor lower limb alignment and foot structure (*)

-Faulty muscular recruitment patterns (*)

-Height - Taller (non-modifiable)

-Rapid growth (non-modifiable)

-Body Type - muscle mass, longer spine (* to a degree, some non-modifiable)

-Poor conditioning/muscular fatigue (*)

-Bone pathologies (refer out)

-Menstrual/hormonal irregularities (refer out)

-Genetic predisposition: Inuit > Caucasian > African-American (non-modifiable)


-Inappropriate training regimen or surface (*)

-Sporting discipline: Sports demanding repetitive lumbar hyperextension, trunk rotation, and/or axial loading (*short-term, potentially modifiable long-term)

-Footwear (*)

-Cigarette smoking (*)

-Insufficient nutrition - calories, calcium, vitamin D (*)

We can help build bone density with appropriate resistance training and encouraging athletes to consume plenty of calcium and vitamin D. We can train the lower extremity out of alignment problems and faulty recruitment patterns. We can put some meat on athletes to protect them from contact injuries. We can condition athletes so that they don't fatigue prematurely and break down in their technique. We have some control over the training surface. We can get young athletes out of the 10-pound cinderblock basketball shoes they're wearing and do more barefoot work. Kids know they shouldn't be eating the right stuff and not smoking.

So, in spite of all these means of preventing spondylolysis, as is the case with ACL problems, we've pursued a reactive - not proactive - model of addressing the issue. Trust me: you can save a kid a lot of pain and frustration if you prevent a fracture instead of bracing it after the fact. So, let's talk about what are in my opinion the most important things to address in young athletes to protect them from spondylolysis:

1. Train the feet and enhance ankle mobility. Think about what happens to someone who - thanks to modern footwear, muscular weakness, and/or structural predisposition - pronates too much. My good friend John Pallof describes the subtalar joint as a torque converter - meaning that tri-planar motion at/below the joint is converted into tibial and femoral internal rotation. In other words, when you pronate (land/decelerate), adequate stretch of the anti-pronators (particularly gluteus maximus and biceps femoris) is necessary to decelerate that motion. Most people - particularly young athletes - have very little posterior chain strength, and they don't activate their glutes well. So, this internal rotation isn't decelerated effectively - and the stress shifts up a bit from the hip to the lumbar spine. Instantly, a foot and ankle issue has become a lumbar spine issue (I could go on and on about how it relates to shoulder and elbow issues in pitchers, too).

2. Improve rotary stability. The more an athlete moves at the lumbar spine, the more likely he is to get injured. Using the baseball example again, there is considerable research demonstrating that young pitchers have higher rotational velocities than professional pitchers - and the younger subjects control their rotation in a less efficient manner. Rotate more, and do so in an inefficient (weak) way - and you're bound to run into problems at the lumbar spine (and elbow and shoulder, as well).

3. Improve their ability to resist extension. Most of the overuse spondy cases we see are individuals who also have a tendency toward hyperextension. If you can't fire your glutes in hip extension, you'll substitute lumbar extension to attempt to get "upright." Combine that rapid, repeated lumbar extension with rapid, repeated lumbar rotation - and pars defects kick in. For this reason, I love basic movements like prone bridges (and their variations) as well as more advanced progressions such as rollouts on the stability ball and ab wheel (or bar rollouts).

(Note from EC: Jim Smith's Combat Coreis the best resource I've seen with respect to #2 and #3; for those interested in further reading, it provides dozens of exercises for both objectives.)

4. Improve hip mobility. I have covered this above, but hip (and thoracic spine) mobility work hand-in-hand with lumbar spine stability. It's easier to stabilize a spine that's above a mobile set of hips.

5. Improve overall strength and power. The more force you generate in your lower and upper body, the less motion you'll need to utilize at the lumbar spine. Effectively, by making the extremities, hips, and torso stronger, you allow the core to focus on force transfer.

6. Implement appropriate deloading periods. Bone, like muscles and your connective tissues, needs a break to recover here and there. Regardless of how perfect your technique is, you lumbar spine will get chewed up if you swing a baseball bat for five hours per day, seven days a week. Physiological adaptation is all about matching tissue tolerance to tissue loading - and providing adequate recovery time for adaptation to occur.

Now, to get to the question at-hand, return-to-play after a period of bracing is a different story. Believe it or not, we've trained guys through their entire 12-16 week bracing protocols. When they're in the brace, aside from axial loading, there isn't much that can "get them" - meaning that they're completely protected from rotation and extension problems.

In fact, the brace does so much of the work for them that you need to make sure they're seeing a physical therapist at least 1-2 times a week during that protocol to get them out of it to entire that they don't detrain the deep core stabilizers. The brace also restricts full hip extension and flexion - and thoracic spine ROM, to a degree - so mobility work is very important. If I had to briefly summarize our training programs during bracing protocols, it would be "upper body, single-leg movements, pull-throughs, rotary stability training, mobility work, low-level linear plyos and medicine ball throws."

And, you know what? That would summarize my recommendations for the short-term when they get out of the brace - because it's what all athletes need! However, post-spondy athletes are different in several regards:

1. They cannot handle compressive loading the same way, so it must be gradually reintroduced. I have not allowed post-spondy guys to come back to squatting until at least nine months post-bracing - and I only do so if they have no residual symptoms. In terms of axial loading, we always test the waters with a barbell reverse lunge with a front squat grip. If that goes well, we'll try some front squatting. Most do well with trap bar deadlifts - although I do not bring them back to any Olympic lifts or straight-bar deadlifting in the first-year post-bracing.

2. Sprint mechanics are definitely altered after bracing. I suspect that it has mostly to do with the fact that kids lose hip flexion and extension range of motion and are therefore forced to develop extra hip rotation strategies (usually external rotation) to get range of motion. Others will simply lose hip flexion during the sprinting motion. Typically, cueing knee-drive with these folks and doing some psoas activation work will help to clear things up quickly.

3. We continue with training purely to resist rotation and only start to integrate rotational exercises - including medicine ball throws and cable woodchops - after three months. In most cases, though, the athlete will have returned to play by this point, so if he is involved in a rotational sport, he'll be encountering plenty of rotation already.

With respect to the athlete in question, if he is still having residual flare-ups (which do happen relatively frequently), he simply isn't ready for more aggressive loading - presumably because he has some degree of instability in one or more directions. When this is the case, we work around the issue - but check to see if there is a specific deficit that needs to be addressed. It may be as simple as poor breathing patterns or a lack of hip rotation - or it could be something that takes longer to address.

The important thing to remember is that athletes lift weights to get better at sports - not just to get good at lifting weights. Who is to say that a great football player can't be built without squatting? We have athletes and clients who do not squat - and they still get great results.

All the Best,



1. Soler T, Calderon C. The prevalence of spondylolysis in the Spanish elite athlete. Am J Sports Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;28(1):57-62.

2. Wineberg, EP. Spondylolysis. http://www.emedicine.com/Radio/topic650.htm

3. Jensen MC, et al. Magnetic resonance imaging of the lumbar spine in people without back pain. N Engl J Med.1994 Jul 14;331(2):69-73.
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The Sturdy Shoulder Seminar Recap

A few weekends ago, I made the trek up to Waltham, MA to attend Eric Cressey’s Sturdy Shoulder Seminar. Continue Reading... - Jim Smith


Click here to purchase the most comprehensive shoulder resource available today: Optimal Shoulder Performance - From Rehabilitation to High Performance.
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A Diesel Crew Interview with Eric Cressey

With a Diesel interview, you'll not only learn from the leaders in the industry about current trends and their strategies about performance enhancement, you'll also learn something about them on a personal level. Eric Cressey, a top 100 Powerlifting USA athlete, has hit the ground running in 2006. Unveiling Magnificent Mobility (with Mike Robertson) and his latest solo venture, The Ultimate Off Season Manual to the masses, this prominent strength coach has already made a huge impact and there is no limit in sight. Continue Reading...
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