Home Posts tagged "Kettlebell Exercise"

5 Great Kettlebell Exercises for Baseball Players

Today's guest post comes from Seattle-based physical therapist, Dan Swinscoe. Enjoy! -EC

Kettlebells have come a long way since they were used as weights on scales in the open air markets of eastern Europe about two hundred years ago. For exercise purposes, they’ve been called everything from an ancient Russian tool against weakness to a cannonball with a handle. One thing is for sure, though: since Pavel Tsatsouline introduced them to the US about 20 years ago, they have become staples in most gyms and rehab centers, including my own.

Physical therapist Gray Cook once said, “Dumbbells will make you strong, but kettlebells will make you efficient.” It’s the shape that makes them great. Because of the offset handle, when gravity acts upon the bell, you are forced to control it in two planes of motion, not just one (as with a barbell or dumbbell). It’s for this reason that they are one of my favorite tools to rehabilitate and train baseball players.

Which exercises will be the best for you depends on your individual needs – which are determined by a good assessment. However, my list below should have you pretty well covered – even if many good exercises didn’t make the list. In particular, I’m leaving out the single arm and double arm swing on purpose because they are so well known. I think they are awesome and I recommend them, but with this article I am hoping to bring some lesser known but invaluable kettlebell exercises to light. The KB snatch is also a great and popular exercise, but I don’t teach it to my pitchers.

Based on research from OnBase University, no matter how they throw or what pitch they’re throwing, pitchers have to do five things well to be successful. They need to 1) control their upright posture, 2) stride 85% of their height, 3) interact with the ground, 4) control their core, and 5) control their arm. Not every pitch is perfect and no pitcher is perfect, but the more we improve those five things, the better the performance and the more protected they are against injury.

Because injuries to pitchers are more common than to position players, I am biasing my list to what pitchers need most. Here are my top five kettlebell exercises to help the pitcher.

1. Pivot Lunge/Pivot Clean.

This is a great drill for training leg strength and control over momentum (as needed for pitching). We speak in terms of the lead leg, but we have athletes go both directions. Master the skill with the pivot lunge before progressing to the pivot clean. Once the athlete knows how to do both, we usually program it so that they combine them in one set. As an example, for a set of 10, the first five reps are pivot lunges and the next five reps are pivot cleans – and then switch sides. This is a unique advantage to the kettlebell. Lunges are okay with a dumbbell, but once you begin cleaning, the KB is distinctly better.

Trains: stride, upright posture, ground interaction, core control, arm control):

2. Turkish Get-up with Screwdriver

This exercise has a lot going on. To help simplify things, we first teach them separately. When we isolate the screwdriver, we teach it first supine (face up), then progress to side-lying, and then into the side plank position. Each version is slightly more challenging than the previous one because each version adds another body segment to have to control. The TGU and the screwdriver each have value on their own. We will combine them once the fundamentals are mastered and the athlete has demonstrated the ability to handle the complexity of this challenge. More than anything else, this exercise trains the player to improve rotator cuff control of the ball on the socket. However, it also demands scapular control and challenges the cross body patterning connecting that shoulder to the opposite hip via the core. Oblique abdominals and serratus anterior are huge with this drill. Once the movement is mastered, the load can be progressively increased so strength can be gained.

Trains: upright posture, stride, interaction with ground, core control, arm control)

3. Offset Kettlebell Front Squat

With this exercise, we get a nice challenge to scapular stability on the side holding the kettlebell, especially as the bell gets heavy. However, the real benefit of this squat version is how we also get contralateral stability challenges in the frontal plane for both the core and hips (in addition to the usual sagittal plane challenges with other squats). I especially like this style of squat because the challenge is very high with weight that seems small compared to barbell squat variations. This way, I get high muscle stress with low joint stress. For this reason, it’s my #1 squat choice for players when training in season.

Trains: upright posture, interaction with ground, core control, arm control


 

4. Dynamic Rows

This exercise has the athlete in a hinge position, which challenges the posterior chain. However, while maintaining that hinge, rotation of the torso is accelerated and decelerated bilaterally. The dynamic nature is an additional challenge from standard rowing exercises. It also forces the rotator cuff and scapula stabilizers to work and work quickly.

Trains: upright posture, core control, arm control

5. Open Half-Kneeling Hip Mobility

Improving stride length is something a lot of pitchers need to do. Improving this mobility so that it sticks can sometimes be a challenge. I think the reason this drill works so well is because of the load of the kettlebell. The weight of the bell assist the player into “depth,” and because he’s doing this actively, the weight seems to give the nervous system more to feel. The gains seem to stick. Players also seem to universally like how it feels to them. Any exercise that is liked gets done more often. This one feels good.

Trains: upright posture, stride

I hope you find these kettlebell exercises useful. If this is your first exposure to kettlebell training I would recommend you seek professional coaching when you are able. Keep in mind some of these exercises take time to master. But like other investments they are worth the payout in the end.

A special thanks to Cardinals pitcher Ian Oxnevad (@ioxnevad) and University of Washington commit Cole Fontenelle (@cole.fontanelle) for their modeling services.

About the Author

Dan Swinscoe, MPT, CSCS is a physical therapist in Issaquah, WA. He practices at Peak Sports and Spine Physical Therapy and teaches his own class, Kettlebells for Clinicians. You can follow him on Instagram (@danswinscoe) and email him at baseballrehab@gmail.com.

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Exercise of the Week: Standing 1-arm Cable Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to expand your rowing exercise selection, definitely try the standing 1-arm cable row with offset kettlebell hold.

Holding a kettlebell in the racked position on the non-working arm not only adds a core control element, but also facilitates thoracic (upper back) rotation away from the rowing arm. We know that left thoracic rotation works hand-in-hand with right serratus anterior recruitment (and vice versa), so this is an awesome progression we like to use with our throwing athletes. You could progress this particular version by adding a bit more upper back rotation to the left on the eccentric (lowering) portion of each rep.

Also, just a friendly reminder that tonight is the end of the $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook. The discount is automatically applied at checkout; you can learn more at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

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We’re using more Kettlebell Windmills. Here’s why.

We've started using kettlebell windmills a lot more with our athletes this year. I think they slide in nicely (similar to Turkish Get-ups) as a first exercise on upper body days, even if they are more of a full-body exercise.

Generally speaking, I think we underappreciate how solid motion (or resistance to it) in the frontal plane really matters for folks from all walks of life. If you haven't read it already, check out my recent blog, Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 6, where I discuss the importance of assessing lateral flexion.

To me, the kettlebell windmill is the perfect exercise for teaching athletes how to groove proper core positioning as they load into the hip in multiple planes of motion. My most common cue to athletes with this exercise is, "Load into the hip hinge; don't just side bend."

As you'll see in this picture below, it's possible to get the motion in the wrong places. This would qualify as a side bend - and you can easily appreciate that not all motion is good motion.

We'll perform this exercise both "regular" and with a bottoms-up approach. I think it's best positioned early in the training session for 2-8 reps per set. Make sure athletes have adequate hip mobility and entry-level core control before jumping right to it. I actually like it as a subtle regression from Turkish Get-ups, especially in uncoordinated individuals and those who may lack a bit of shoulder mobility.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/9/18

I hope you're having a good week. I was off the grid for a few days for a mini family vacation in Maine, so this post is a few days late. However, as you can see, the scenery was well worth it!

The Ideal Business Formula - I was fortunate to get an advanced copy of this book by Pat Rigsby, and it was outstanding. I highly recommend any business owners out there check it out.

The Underrated Value of Mediocrity - This was a quick read from Tony Gentilcore, but the message is important and enduring.

This surgeon wants to offer cheap MRIs. A state law is getting in his way. - This article was an interesting look at the rising costs of diagnostic imaging - and how one surgeon is challenging existing laws in order to make these tests more affordable.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

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Should We Really Contraindicate ALL Overhead Lifting?

At a seminar a few weeks ago, a college pitching coach said to me, "Well, I know that you don't like overhead lifting for pitchers, so what do you do instead?"

It's something that's falsely been attributed to me in the past, so let me go on the record by saying that I don't think all overhead lifting is created equal. Rather, I think there is a continuum we have to appreciate as we select exercises for our clients and athletes.

At the most aggressive end of the spectrum, we have overhead pressing with a barbell or dumbbells. They allow a lifter to take on the most load, and in the case of the barbell, they have the least freedom of movement (especially if we're talking about a Smith machine press). Moreover, they generally lead to the most significant compensatory movement, particularly at the lower back. I don't love these for baseball players, but don't have any problems with using them in healthy lifters from other walks of life.

However, in these more at-risk populations, we have some options as more shoulder friendly exercises that can deliver a great training effect. The bottoms-up kettlebell military press delivers a slightly different training effect more safely because more of the work is devoted to joint stability. And, I've found that the bottoms-up set-up helps the lifter to engage serratus anterior more to get the scapula "around" the rib cage.

Landmine presses are another good alternative, as I see them as a hybrid of horizontal and vertical pressing. The torso angle and "lean" into the bar help to optimize scapular upward rotation with less competing directly against gravity.

Bottoms-up carries and waiter's walks are also good options for driving overhead patterning without beating up on the joint. We use them all the time.

Regressing even further, something like a yoga push-up is technically an overhead lift because of the finish position.

So, the take-home message is that I'm not against overhead lifting; in fact, we do it all the time on a number of fronts. Moreover, these examples don't even take into account things like TRX Ys, pull-ups, and overhead medicine ball throw/stomp variations - all of which we incorporate on a daily basis with our athletes and general population clients. Not all overhead work is created equal!

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10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age

Back in my early-to-mid-20s, my focus shifted into powerlifting and away from a "traditional" athletic career. While I got a ton stronger, I can't say that I felt any more athletic. In hindsight, I realize that it was because I trained strength at the exclusion of many other important athletic qualities. Since then, I've gone out of my way to include things that I know keep me athletic, and as a result, at age 36, I feel really good about taking on anything life throws my way. With that in mind, I thought I'd pull together some recommendations for those looking to remain athletic as they age.

1. Stay on top of your soft tissue work and mobility drills.

Without a doubt, the most common reason folks feel unathletic is that they aren't able to get into the positions/postures they want. As I've written in the past, it's much easier to do a little work to preserve mobility than it is to lose it and have to work to get it back. Some foam rolling and five minutes of mobility work per day goes a long way in keeping you athletic.

2. Do a small amount of pre-training plyos.

I think it's important to preserve the ability to effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). That's not to say that every gym goer needs to be doing crazy depth jumps and sprinting full-tilt, though. A better bet for many folks who worry about tweaking an Achilles, patellar tendon, or hamstrings is to implement some low-level plyometric work: side shuffles, skipping, carioca, and backpedaling. Here's a slightly more advanced progression we use in The High Performance Handbook program:

The best bet is to include these drills right after the warm-up and before starting up with lifting.

3. Emphasize full-body exercises that teach transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.

I love cable lift variations to accomplish this task in core exercises, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options.

4. Emphasize ground-to-standing transitions.

Turkish Get-ups are the most well-known example of this challenge, but don't forget this gem:

5. Get strong in single-leg.

Squats and deadlifts will get you strong, no doubt, but don't forget that a big chunk of athletics at all levels takes place in single-leg stance. Lunges, 1-leg RDLs, step-ups, and split squats all deserve a place in just about everyone's training programs.

6. Use core exercises that force you to resist both extension and rotation.

Efficient movement is all about moving in the right places. The lower back isn't really the place to move, though; you should prioritize movement at the hips and upper back. With that in mind, your core work should be focused on resisting both extension (too much lower back arching) and rotation. Here are a few favorites:

7. Train outside the sagittal plane.

It's important to master the sagittal (straight ahead) plane first with your training programs, but once you get proficient there, it's useful to progress to a bit of strength work in the frontal place. I love lateral lunge variations for this reason.

8. Chuck medicine balls!

I'm a huge fan of medicine ball drills with our athletes, but a lot of people might not know that I absolutely love them for our "general population" clients as well. I speak to why in this article: Medicine Ball Workouts: Not Just for Athletes. Twice a week, try adding in four sets at the end of your warm-up and prior to lifting. Do two sets of overhead stomps and two sets of a rotational drill, starting with these two variations in month 1:

In month 2, try these two:

Trust me; you'll be hooked by the "8-week Magic Mark."

9. Be fast on your concentric.

If you want to stay fast, you need to keep a fast element in your strength training program. This can obviously entail including things like Olympic lifts, jump squats, and kettlebell swings. Taking it a step further, though, you can always just make a dedicated effort to always accelerate the bar with good speed on the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement. 

10. Play.

In a given week, on top of my normal lifting, I might catch bullpens, sprint or condition with my athletes, play beach volleyball, or run a few football receiving routes at the facility. The old adage, "Variety is the spice of life" applies to fitness and athleticism, too. Don't be afraid to have some fun.

The longer you've been training, the more you realize that your strength and conditioning programs have to be versatile enough to preserve your athleticism and functional capacity while still keeping training fun. If you're looking for a flexible program that's proven effective across several populations, I'd encourage you to check out my flagship resource, The High Performance Handbook.

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5 Strength and Conditioning Exercises that Overdeliver

One of the most popular features of The High Performance Handbook is the extensive online video database it includes. With that in mind, I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorite exercises that are included in the program. I like these, in particular, because they're "anti-isolation" exercises. In other words, they deliver multiple training effects to give gym-goers more efficient training outcomes. Keep in mind that just because I don't include classic compound lifts like squats and deadlifts in this discussion doesn't mean that they aren't absolutely fantastic; I just want to give you a little exposure to some different drills in this post.

1. Kettlebell Crosswalk

Because of the asymmetrical loading, you get some great rotary stability work at the core - on top of the anterior core stability work you get from holding a weight overhead while resisting too much arching of your lower back. You get some outstanding shoulder mobility and stability benefits, as getting the top arm up requires a lot of scapular upward rotation and rotator cuff activation. Finally, an overlooked benefit is the opportunity to reaffirm good neck positioning. A lot of athletes will want to shoot into forward head posture, but if you pack the neck correctly, you'll be able to avoid this.

2. Positional Breathing

I use a wide variety of positional breathing drills as part of The High Performance Handbook program, so this is really more of a "category" than a specific exercise. When you put athletes (especially those with more "extended postures) into a more flexion biased position and encourage them to full exhale, you are effectively training both mobility and stability simultaneously. When you exhale, many of the muscles of inhalation - scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, lats, pec minor (not surprisingly all muscles that have chronic tissue density in many individuals) - all are forced to relax. Concurrently, the rectus abdominus and external obliques fire to get air out - and in the process, establish better anterior core stability.

Here are a few examples:

3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge to 1-leg RDL

Whenever I put this in an athlete's program, I go out of my way to warn them that they'll be pretty sore in the days that follow. Lunging and 1-leg RDLs constitute different kinds of single-leg work with different training effects, but when you combine them, you can get the best of both worlds.

This can also be done with one dumbbell at a time. As athletes get more proficient with the drill, I look for more "fluid" transitions, as opposed to a lot of stop-and-go movements.

4. 1-arm KB Turkish Get-up

This one is just too obvious. To do a good get-up, you need everything from a hip hinge, to anterior core control, to shoulder mobility, to single-leg stability.  

 

Not bad for a crafty lefty. #CSPfamily #100lb

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

If you're looking for a great coaching resource on Turkish Get-up Technique, check out 6 Common Turkish Get-up Technique Mistakes.

5. Combination Mobility Exercises

Let's face it: nobody really enjoys mobility warm-ups. Fortunately, for those of you who dread these drills and prefer to get to the lifting as quickly as possible, there are some combination drills that speed up the process a bit. Check out these two examples from the program:

Wrap-up

If you're looking to learn more about how all these different pieces fit with an overall strength and conditioning program "puzzle," then I'd encourage you to check out my most popular resource, The High Performance Handbook. It offers programs versatile enough to accommodate a wide variety of training goals.  

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold

We're long overdue for a new installment of my "Exercise of the Week" series, so here's one of my all-time favorite drills. The 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold affords all the shoulder health and postural benefits of horizontal pulling, but also trains thoracic (upper back) rotation, and both anterior and rotary core stability. In other words, it delivers some fantastic bang for your training buck. Check it out!

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Coaching Up the Bottoms-up Kettlebell Carry

I love bottoms-up kettlebell carrying variations for teaching scapular control and getting reflexive rotator cuff recruitment. Sometimes, though, folks won't feel these drills in the right positions. With that said, check out today's video to learn how you can usually quickly and easily shift the stress to the right spots in the shoulder girdle:

If you're looking to learn more about our approaches to assessing and training the shoulder girdle, I'd encourage you to check out out one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. Our next upper extremity course takes place January 17-19, 2016 at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA, with December 17 serving as the early-bird registration deadline. For more information, check out www.EliteBaseballMentorships.com 

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 64

Today's five tips come from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.

1. Approach your sets and reps intelligently.

Whenever I start a new program, I’m always excited to attack the given sets and reps and put some weight on the bar. However, I won’t come into the gym every day of every training program as fresh and ready to go as I did on Week 1, Day 1.

When writing programs for our athletes, I want them to do the following things during their training sessions:

a. Move with quality and integrity.
b. Move with intensity, focusing on force production.

If you can’t bring either to a lift, one of two things is happening: you are fatigued, or the weight is too heavy. There are many causes of fatigue, whether it be from the previous day of training, previous weekend of traveling, or recent competition.

To account for this, I can do two things: regulate sets and reps (volume), or weights used (intensity).

Fellow CSP coach Greg Robins uses the phrase:

“Programs are static, and training is a dynamic process.”

A program is a piece of paper that does not factor in your life: lack of sleep, outside stress, or fatigue from a previous competition. Training is a process that should respect how you recover from day to day. 

So, if you fail or miss a rep for example, you can do one of two things:

If your program calls for 3 sets of 5 reps, that is 15 overall reps at a specific intensity. If you can’t complete the given numbers, you can:

a. Flip the numbers: 15 reps can be done using 5 sets of 3 instead. Mentally, 3 reps is easier to digest than 5, you can recover better in between sets, and you can evaluate how your body is reacting to the exercise on a more micro level. Essentially, you can do any amount of sets to accommodate for the same amount of total volume.

b. Maintain the same amount of volume and decrease the weight used: If the weights are feeling heavy for 8 sets of 3 reps, down the weight until you feel like you are moving without a significant grind.

2. Set goals by reverse engineering them.

If you want to achieve the goal of playing baseball (or any other sport, for that matter) beyond high school, keep these numbers from the NCAA in mind:

Out of 482,629 athletes in high school, less than 7% get the chance to play in college. Out of those student athletes, only 8.6% of draft-eligible players actually get drafted by a professional baseball organization. Even when combined with players who are drafted directly out of high school, you're still dealing with an incredibly low of moving on to professional baseball. And, this doesn't even take into consideration the number of players who make it to Minor League Baseball, but never advanced to the Major League level.

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What's the point? Being in the top 0.5% of anything in life is very challenging, and baseball is certainly no exception.

So the question remains: if you want to achieve something great, how can you best achieve it?

There are a lot of ways to dissect and reverse engineer how to efficiently get to your goals. Locke and Latham (1) note that “specific goals direct activity more effectively and reliably than vague or general goals.”

While the path you may take will vary greatly because of the opportunities that are presented, there is always one thing you can control in the face of uncontrollable external factors, and it is your reaction to the given situation.

• If you got cut from a team, what is your plan of action to display your strengths, or improve your weaknesses?

• What is your reaction when something does not go as planned?

Using the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound) is a great place to start, and whether or not you desire to play professional sports, it can also help improve your likelihood to achieve aesthetically minded goals as well.

Also, the SMART method of goal setting can be used as a metric towards modifying behaviors to more positively align yourself with those goals. Are your behaviors allowing you to achieve your goals? If not, what can you do to alter these behaviors or habits?

3. If you stray from a diet, focus on your next meal, not the next day!

When it comes to healthy nutrition, you'll often hear of people "falling off the bandwagon" for a meal - and it leading to several days of poor food choices. For this reason, I always encourage folks to "right the ship" as quickly as possible.

If you go out with friends and indulge, binge eat, or just mess up your macros, don’t give up hope for the day and plan to start over tomorrow. Tomorrow may turn into the next day, and into the next day. So what do you do?

Gather your losses and do better on your next immediate meal, instead of restarting the next day. Don’t let a bad meal turn into a bad day of eating.

This is also one reason why I don't generally advocate full-on "free" days, where folks eat anything they want as a means of "de-stressing" from six days per week of quality nutrition adherence. It's a lot easier to get things back on track after a single bad meal (whether planned or unplanned) than from a full day.

4. Reduce time “lost” training by continuing with low-level exercises.

If you consider training at an established gym with a great training environment as “going all out” as a “100%” of your efforts, what happens when you train elsewhere?

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For example, I’ll refer to four days of lifting with extra days of working on sprints/shuffles/conditioning as 100% of the whole product. If you miss one day, that is 17% of your whole workout week missing. If you miss two days, that is 34% of your workout week that you have “lost” because of travel, long days, or other extenuating circumstances.

Take this day for example:

A1. Barbell RDL - 3x4
A2. Prone Horizontal Abduction - 3x8/side
B1. DB Bulgarian Split Squat - 3x6/side
B2. Half-Kneeling Cable Chop - 3x8/side
B3. Half Kneeling 90/90 External Rotation Hold - 3x(2x6)/side

You have two arm care exercises, one lower body bilateral strength exercise, one lower unilateral exercise, and a rotary core stability exercise.

If you can’t get to the gym to do these, give this a shot:

A1. Supine Bridge March, or 1-Leg Hip Thrust with 3 Sec Pause - 3x10/side
A2. Prone Horizontal Abduction (Off Bed) - 3x8/side
B1. Bodyweight Split Squat with 3 second Pause - 3x10/side
B2. Feet Elevated Side Bridge - 3x30sec/side
B3. Standing External Rotation to Wall - 3x(2x6)/side

Certainly this is not the same, but when comparing these exercises, you can begin to identify that there is still something you can do despite not having access to coaching or equipment.

It won’t be 100% of the full effect, but any percentage of that 100 percent will be worth something when you look back over a longer period of time to evaluate your results.

5. Use density training to get more work done in less time.

Along with decreasing or regulating caloric consumption, increasing caloric expenditure can help you towards your fitness goals. Basically, doing as much work as possible in the form of density training can burn a lot of calories in a little amount of time. Utilizing non-competing muscle groups in a superset or giant set fashion will prevent fatigue and allow you to get more work done.

For example, performing a tri-set with a TRX Inverted Row, KB Goblet Reverse Lunge, and then a Stability Ball Stir the Pot will provide several biomechanical and force production benefits.

Rather than doing 3 sets of 10 for each exercise, waiting around in between sets, and then performing each set with no pre-determined intensity, do this:

A1. TRX Inverted Row - 10 reps
A2. KB Goblet Reverse Lunge - 5/side (10 reps)
A3. SB Stir the Pot - 5/side (10 reps)

Perform as many rounds of this circuit as possible in 5 minutes.

Reference

1. Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. "The application of goal setting to sports." Journal of sport psychology 7.3 (1985): 205-222.

About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found at www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.
 

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