Home Posts tagged "Lee Taft"

Developing Multidirectional Power for the Baseball Fielder

Today's guest post comes from Jason Feairheller.

When most coaches think of power development for baseball, a big focus is on developing rotational power for throwing and hitting with various medicine throws. Additionally, they'll utilize lateral lower body power development to help pitchers get a better drive off the mound, or even the initial push off the ground of a base stealer. If these are the only types of plyometrics we train, there’s a missing piece - multidirectional plyometrics - that can help prepare athletes for the endless possibilities of movement for which a fielder must prepare.

Any position player may have to sprint forward or backward in any direction, depending on where the ball is hit. Although lateral movement is a huge part of baseball, and prepares an athlete for a lot of the movements they’ll see on the field, it does not account for all of them.

Just like Eric, I’m a huge fan of Lee Taft and his system for teaching and understanding speed. Lee breaks down speed into seven different patterns (detailed in this podcast). For the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus on the hip turn, and how multidirectional plyometrics can strengthen and make this movement pattern more powerful.

A hip turn happens all the time in a baseball. Whenever an infielders runs back to catch a pop-ups, or outfielders are tracking down a fly balls that are behind them in any direction, they are using a hip turn. The fielder pivots the feet and punches a foot into the ground to reposition themselves to sprint in the direction they want to go. There are lots of possibilities in terms of the angle at which the fielder might punch a foot in the ground. If I’m looking to improve this position, changing the planes of movements and angles of plyometrics can greatly improve the strength and power of this movement pattern. Think of how the swing of a batter changes slightly with different pitches and locations. The primary fundamentals are the same, but the swing will be slightly different depending on the location of the pitch. The same idea applies to developing power in all directions for a fielder. There may be slight changes in the angle of force off the ground, and we should prepare the body in training for what we will see on the field.

In the following video, I demonstrate the progression of lateral bound with a push back at three different angles, followed by hip turn at three different angles. You can see the similarities between the movements, especially when the focus is on creating a better “punch” into the ground to limit ground contact time. By limiting ground contact, an athlete is getting a more explosive first step, which can be the difference between making the play and not.

Power should be developed with two different types of focus. We are either trying to create as much force as possible with a jump or throw, or we are trying to reduce the time at which we do it. Going back to the example of a hip turn, the fielder will very rapidly punch a foot into the ground. If the fielder did this slowly with a focus only on creating force, he'd already be two steps behind; power is what matters. Plyometric drills with a focus on force should still be included in every program because they help strengthen different positions, but make sure to include some type of plyometrics with a focus on limiting ground contact. Begin with low level hops variations before progressing to more demanding exercises.

There are many different ways multidirectional plyometrics can help develop a more explosive player. Think of the movement patterns you might see on the field, and start thinking of ways you can help your athletes.

About the Author

Jason Feairheller is a co-owner and strength coach at Function and Strength in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Jason attended college at the University of Scranton, where he was also a member of the baseball team. Jason has lectured on strength and conditioning as an adjunct professor at Immaculata University. Recently, he was a guest on the Lee Taft Complete Sports Performance Podcast. He has also contributed articles on speed training, as well as taught the course, “Functional Speed Training for the Fitness Professional and Healthcare Provider.” You can follow him on Instagram at @FunctionandStrength, Twitter at @TrueFXS, or visit www.functionandstrength.net.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/9/20

I hope you're safe and sound in spite of the crazy times in the world today - and I hope some recommended reading and listening helps pass the time!

Upstream - For me, anything from Chip and Dan Heath is must-read material, and this solo project from Dan proved to be no exception. He looks closely at proactive concepts to reduce the need for reactive measures, and there are definitely applicable lessons for the strength and conditioning and rehabilitation communities.

Certified Speed and Agility Coach course - Lee Taft's outstanding certification is on sale through this Sunday at midnight. It's absolutely outstanding - and serves as mandatory viewing for all Cressey Sports Performance staff members.

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Symmetry Doesn't Matter - and May Cause More Problems than it Solves - The concept of asymmetry has always been very intriguing to me in light of my work in a one-sided sports like baseball. Dean Somerset shares a quick, but informative overview here.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Speed Training with Lee Taft

We’re excited to welcome speed training expert Lee Taft to this week’s podcast for an awesome discussion of baseball movement competencies and how to coach them. Lee is highly qualified to work across all sports, but I've found his work to be particularly impactful in the baseball world. CSP-MA Director of Performance John O'Neil takes the lead as a guest host as well.

This is a timely podcast, as Lee's popular Certified Speed and Agility Specialist course is on sale for $150 off this week. I'm a huge fan of Lee and this resource - so much, in fact, that it was filmed at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts. It's now required viewing for all our staff members. You can check it out and take advantage of the great discount HERE.

Show Outline

  • How Lee developed into the coach he is today
  • How Lee approaches youth athletic development
  • What the 7 movement patterns of speed are and how these principles translate into sport specific results
  • What is a lateral run step is, how Lee teaches it, and how it’s different from a traditional crossover step
  • How can base stealers optimize their setup to maximize acceleration
  • Why an initial step back with the lead leg is not a bad move first move for a base runner and why observing an athlete’s center of mass is more meaningful when addressing acceleration
  • What the upper body’s role is in creating efficient running patterns and how the arms specifically work for baserunners when stealing
  • How can infielders can improve their setup and defensive start position
  • Why the traditional defensive mindset of get your glove on the ground and be as low as you can is the wrong strategy for optimizing a player’s athleticism
  • How initial hand position and the movement of the arms work to propel the body out of the start position to fielding the ball
  • How outfielders can refine their defensive setup
  • How the incorporation of a split step into a defensive player’s approach can create a quicker initial move to the ball and help to expand a fielder’s range
  • What minute but key movement competencies Lee incorporates into athletes’ training, including the dissociation of their upper and lower half and learning to run an opposite direction your eyes are looking
  • How Lee incorporates curvilinear speed work into his athletes’ training
  • How deceleration isn’t emphasized enough when discussing qualities of position players
  • What the common compensations Lee sees in baseball players’ running mechanics are
  • What mistakes coaches are commonly making when teaching and training speed in the game of baseball
  • What principles Lee prioritizes when incorporating conditioning into athletes’ training
  • How Lee would implement conditioning into a baseball program’s training calendar and how he would apply his conditioning principles to specific scenarios like managing a pitchers’ workload between starts
  • What the priority training qualities are when working to train power in hitters
  • What med ball fake throws are and why are these specifically useful when training hitters
  • You can follow Lee on Twitter at @LeeTaft and Instagram at @LeeTaft.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

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4 Training Principles to Make the Most of Your Speed Work

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach Derek Kambour. It's timely, as Lee Taft's Certified Speed and Agility Coach course is on sale for $150, and it's mandatory viewing for each of the coaches on the CSP staff. Lee's had a profound effect on our movement training progressions, as you'll see below. Enjoy! - EC

With the current global pandemic, you’re seeing more and more people training outside. I don’t think I’ve seen this many people going for walks, going out for long distance runs, and even sprinting since I was in elementary or middle school (before the internet became popular). Many of the athletes that we’ve been training at Cressey Sports Performance have had to adjust their training due to not having access to our facility. The majority of them will not have access to equipment and will have to address other elements of their training to maintain a training effect. One of those areas is their sprint work. Since many athletes will be shifting their focus away from heavy strength training and more towards sprints and movement based work, I thought this would be a good time to go over some key principles for athletes and coaches to think about when it comes to getting the most out of their sprint work.

1. Posture/Position

This is usually the first thing we look at when developing an athlete’s speed capabilities. This is an athlete’s foundation when it comes to speed. Simply put, if an individual can’t demonstrate appropriate posture and maintain good proximal position, then nothing else is really going to matter. There are a bunch of ways that you can go about addressing an individual’s posture. At CSP, we really like to use a variety of wall march drills. These drills are basic, but they’re great for allowing athletes to get a feel for ideal postures and positions. We will use certain variations depending on what the athlete needs to work on. For all these variations, we’re looking to see around a 45-degree angle where the head and neck is in a straight line all the way down to the foot/heel that is on the ground. The four primary variations that we will use include:

a. Glute Wall March ISO Holds – this is first variation that we will use with athletes as an introduction to acceleration posture and projection angles. This gives them a feel for proper position and provides context for further progressions that we may use. We’ll often prescribe 3-5 reps/leg with each rep being a 5 second hold.
b. Glute Wall March ISO Holds w/Mini-Band – This is a great variation to further challenge the postures and angles that we addressed with the first variation. The addition of the mini band will challenge the athlete’s ability to maintain position and gives the athlete immediate feedback on their ability to achieve hip separation.
c. Glute Wall March 1-2’s – Eventually, we want to make this drill a little more dynamic. Again, we’re looking to reinforce posture with the added challenge of maintain position while going through a rapid limb exchange.
d. Wall Load & Explode – I really like using this variation for emphasizing the horizontal projection angles required for linear acceleration.

Usually, it won’t take long for athletes to master these wall drills. Eventually, we want them to progress to more dynamic movements such as marches and skips where maintaining good posture becomes a bit more challenging. If an athlete demonstrates the ability to maintain positional integrity during basic marches and skips, we’ll progress to an arms overhead variation for both. For our purposes, we’ll have most of our athletes perform arms overhead marches and skips for the added benefit of getting shoulder flexion and upward rotation for our throwing athletes.

2. Arm Action

Along with posture, arm action tends to be one of the lowest hanging fruits when it comes to improving acceleration mechanics. I’m not a huge fan of spending a ton of time on arm action drills. Usually, effective verbal cues will do the trick when it comes to improving arm mechanics. With acceleration, we’re looking for much longer arm action where the backside arm is close to or at full extension, and the front side arm is closer to the chin or possibly the eyes, depending on the athlete. This longer separation is required in order to help propel the mass forward, and it goes along with the longer ground contact times you see with acceleration. Again, I usually rely on verbalizing this to athletes through simple cues, but I do like this Arm Action Series that I stole from Lee Taft (you can see it HERE). I’ll use this series with athletes during their warm-up or in between sets of their actual sprint work if I feel as though they need a better “feel” for their arms in a more specific body position.

Arm action is usually a pretty quick fix. If it is a major point of emphasis and something that the individual has clearly been struggling with, then be sure to be a stickler about it when it comes to dynamic warm-up activities such as your marches, skips, etc.

3. Direction of Force Application

With acceleration, we are looking for maximal horizontal force application where the projection angle is roughly 45-degrees, like the angles that are explored during the wall drills that I mentioned earlier. This projection angle is largely going to depend on where the athlete applies force or where their foot strikes into the ground after completing the first step. If we are talking about starting from a staggered 2-point or 3-point stance, when the athlete takes off, we are looking for a piston-like leg action where the back-leg comes through and punches forward and then quickly punches down and back into the ground. What I’ve found is that an athlete’s speed, whether they are running a 10, 20, or 40-yard sprint, is going to be dictated by the first two steps. An athlete that can nail the first two steps of acceleration, is going to set himself up for a pretty successful sprint. This isn’t always easy to do, especially for younger athletes.

Reinforcing good leg action during marches and skips is a good place to start. You will often see athletes get too cyclical with their leg action where their heel comes too close to their butt. These are typically the individuals who will strike the ground out in front of their hips, leading to them "popping up" on initial acceleration. My go-to for athletes who have a hard time striking down and back is incorporating band resistance. I’m a big believer that in order to go fast, you sometimes need to slow things down and give athletes the time to get a feel for good position and what their body is doing. This is what band resistance essentially does. I’ll use this tool on marches, skips, and, one of my favorites, A-runs. I love using A-runs to teach the piston-like leg action and to help athletes with striking the ground under their center of mass.

There are times when athletes will execute proper leg action during these lower level activities, but then they can’t figure out how to transfer it to their sprint work. In this case, I’ll either a) have them perform these activities in between sets of their actual sprint work instead of just having them done in the beginning of their warm-up, or b) have them perform whatever sprint variation they are doing with band resistance and then immediately come back to that sprint variation without band resistance.

When I’m first introducing sprint mechanics to an athlete, I’ll usually play around with what starting position works best for them and where they feel most comfortable. Some athletes may prefer a lower position (3-point start) whereas other athletes (especially taller athletes) may prefer a variation where they initiate the sprint from a slightly higher projection angle (falling start).

4. Elasticity

Elasticity or elastic strength is arguably the most important trait or physical quality when it comes to sprint performance. Elastic strength refers to the ability to produce large amounts of force in a short period of time. There have been numerous studies that show how elite sprinters can put tremendous amounts of forces into the ground at a much faster rate compared to non-elite sprinters. How do we train the ability to put force intro the ground at a high rate? Sprinting is the most obvious answer, but this can also be accomplished through fast stretch shortening cycle plyometric activities as well. The nice thing about developing elastic strength is that it doesn’t require any equipment.

When preparing an athlete to sprint, we want to prepare specific tissues through plyometrics in a progressive manner going from least intensive to most intensive. Along with many of the dynamic warm-up activities mentioned (marches, skips, A-Runs), we like to use 1-leg Medial-Lateral Line Hops as a low-level activity to prepare the tissues of the lower leg. The middle ground can be used for activities like Pogo Jumps, Hurdle Jumps variations, and Depth Jump variations. Prior to sprint work, I like to transition to plyometric drills that address specific technical elements that translate a little more to sprinting, my favorite being bounding. With bounding, you’re developing an athlete’s stiffness, elasticity, coordination, and timing.

Hopefully, this will give some ideas as to how you can improve your sprint training as we continue to make it through this difficult time. Be safe, everyone!

Note from EC: If you're looking to learn more about Lee's approach to programming and coaching speed and agility work, I highly recommend his Certified Speed and Agility Coach course. The information is top notch, and it's on sale for $150 off through Sunday. You can learn more HERE

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About the Author

​Derek Kambour serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Prior to joining the staff, Derek completed an internship at CSP-FL in the fall of 2018. Prior to joining the CSP-FL team, Derek coached a variety of athletes and clientele at performance facilities in New Jersey. He graduated from Montclair St. University with a degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA. Derek is also a competitive powerlifter. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/28/19

I hope you had a great weekend. It's that time of the week again! Here's a little recommended reading and listening to kick off your week:

Optimizing Adaptation and Performance -This is a new resource from Mike Potenza (San Jose Sharks), Kevin Neeld (Boston Bruins), and James LaValle (authority in nutrition and supplementation) that provided some excellent insights for any health and human performance professional. I was fortunate to receive advanced access, and it's been fascinating. It's on sale for $50 off this week as an introductory discount.

EC on the Complete Sports Performance Podcast - Lee Taft interviewed me to learn more about how I got into the baseball niche, and what important considerations are present with this population.

Is Authenticity Overrated? - Pete Dupuis is my business partner at CSP-MA, and he's got a keen eye for culture in light of how ours has developed over the years. This writeup on authenticity fits right into that world.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/21/19

With the crazy baseball offseason underway and us in the thick of construction for the new facility in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, I haven't had a ton of time to write up new content. I have, however, continued to consume a lot of other peoples' stuff! Check out some good reads and listens from around the 'net:

Boo Schexnayder on the Complete Sports Performance Podcast - I thought this was an outstanding interview by Lee Taft with Boo, as they delved into topics like acceleration programming and plyometric progressions. It was a good reminder that one of the best characteristics of an elite coach is the ability to simplify even the most complex topics.

Be Like the Best - Anthony Renna did an amazing job pulling together this compilation of career advice from around the fitness industry. I'm was one of the interviews, and am currently working my way through it - and am picking up some great nuggets myself!

Yoga for Athletes: What Activation and Inhibition Matter More Than Stretching - I got a question about my thoughts on yoga for baseball players the other day, and it immediately reminded me that I should reincarnate this old article from my friend Dana Santas. She does a great job of relating the most important concepts for athletic populations when they undertake yoga.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/24/19

I hope you had a great weekend. We were super busy with the fall seminar at our MA location, and yesterday (Monday) was our business mentorship. While I didn't have time to pull together new content, I did curate some content from around the 'net for you.

Even More Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint - Dean Somerset and Tony Gentilcore's new product is on sale at a great price. The first installment had some really good nuggets, and I'm working my wife through the second one now; it's definitely living up to the hype as well. It's on sale for $70 off this week and comes with CEUs.

Lee Taft on the Biggest Coaching Mistakes in Speed Training - Lee Taft was a guest on Mike Robertson's podcast and he went through a ton of the most common challenges coaches face when teaching movement skills.

Tackling the Cranky Local Football Coach Conundrum - I spent all day yesterday hearing Pete Dupuis talk during our business mentorship, so you'd think that I'd be tired of him by now. Nope! This content is that important to coaches in the private sector.

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*PROGRESSION PRINCIPLES* 👇 Here are some principles to guide your strength training progressions. Keep in mind that there might be times when you might utilize more than one of these strategies at a time. Here are some examples of each: 1. Increase the resistance: pick heavier stuff up. 2. Increase the range-of-motion: progress from a a regular split squat to a split squat from a deficit 3. Make the base of support smaller: go from a bilateral to unilateral exercise 4. Raise the center of mass: switch from dumbbell lunges to barbell lunges. 5. Move the resistance further away from the axis of motion: switch from a trap bar deadlift to a conventional deadlift. 6. Add dynamic changes to the base of support: switch from a split squat to a lunge 7. Reduce the number of points of stability: switch from regular push-ups to 1-leg push-ups 8. Use an unstable surface: do ankle rehab balance drills on an unstable surface instead of the flat ground 9. Apply destabilizing torques to the system: do a 1-arm farmer's walk instead of a two-armed version 10. Increase the speed of movement/deceleration demands: move the bar faster concentrically, or switch from reverse lunges to forward lunges (more deceleration) 💪 Have another approach that you think should be included? Drop a comment below! 👍 Find this useful? Tag a friend, colleague, or lifting partner who could also benefit. 👊

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/12/19

I hope you're hadving a great week. Here's a little recommended reading and listening to keep it rolling.

Complete Coach Certification - Mike Robertson launched this excellent continuing education resource for trainers last week. I just finished working my way through it and it was outstanding.

Models of Skills are Important - Lee Taft interviewed Dan Pfaff for this podcast, and it was absolutely outstanding.

Shoulder Assessment and Treatment with Eric Cressey - Speaking of podcasts, I was a guest on the Squat University Podcast recently. I talked a lot of shoulders with the host, physical therapist Aaron Horschig.

An Alternate Approach to Summer Ball: The Rise of Private Facility Training - This article from Aaron Fitt at D1Baseball.com highlights how many athletes are taking non-traditional approaches to summer development for baseball. Aaron shadowed a training session with Duke pitcher Bryce Jarvis at Cressey Sports Performance.

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The overhead view in a pitching delivery can enable you to see certain things that can’t be appreciated from other perspectives. Foremost among these is the ability to differentiate between thoracic rotation (upper back motion) and horizontal abduction (shoulder motion). 👇 In this image taken just prior to stride foot contact, @gerritcole45’s pelvis has already rotated counterclockwise toward the plate while his torso is still rotating clockwise. This is the hip-shoulder separation throwers seek for generating big time velocity. 🔥 However, when a thrower lacks thoracic rotation - or gives up thoracic rotation too early (usually by chasing arm speed too early in the delivery) - he’ll often resort to creating excessive horizontal abduction (arm back) to find the pre-stretch he wants to generate the velocity he covets. This is not only an ineffective velocity strategy, but it also can increase anterior shoulder and medial elbow stress - all while leading to arm side misses, accidental cutters, and backup breaking balls. 🤦‍♂️ Over the past few years, I’ve heard of a few pitchers being advised to work to increase the horizontal abduction in their deliveries. I don’t think you can make this recommendation without the overhead view, and even then, it’s likely taking a distal (arm) solution to a proximal (trunk and timing) problem. 🤔 I covered hip-shoulder separation in the pitching delivery in great detail in a free presentation I gave away earlier this year when we launched our podcast. You can still get it at the link in my bio.👊👍 . #Repost @astrosbaseball @get_repost_easily #repost_easily ****** Like H-Town in the summertime 💯

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/15/19

I've finally gotten this feature back on an early-in-the-week publication schedule! Here's some good stuff from around the 'Net of late:

Complete Speed and Agility Coach Certification - I've commented on numerous occasions how much I like this resource and accompanying certification from Lee Taft. It's on sale for $150 off this week and definitely worth the investment.

It Took Me Ten years to Become an Overnight Success - A recent conversation reminded me of this article my business partner, Pete Dupuis, wrote a few years ago. It's an important one for the up-and-comers in our field.

The Value of Self-Doubt - I enjoyed this podcast from Brett Bartholomew at The Art of Coaching. It's a great listen for both novice and more experienced coaches. I loved him arguing FOR imposter syndrome in an era where everyone is positioned as an expert.

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Tall athletes have much less wiggle room with their setup than shorter athletes do, as long levers can make weights feel heavier, and more range-of-motion equates to more opportunity for things to go wrong. This is especially true when it comes to pulling from the ground. On the left, you'll see @joerock___ (who is 6-7) round over and try to use the bar to pull himself into a good starting position - but he doesn't quite get to where he needs to go. On the right, we reach the arms out in front as a counterbalance, and have him descend to the bar without ever giving up an optional torso posture. The best way to firm up good positions is to never allow bad positions to take place. Swipe left for the actual set (good work, Joe!). . . . #cspfamily #deadlift #trapbar

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The Best of 2018: Guest Posts

 I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2018, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year. Here goes…

1. The Issue With Most Powerlifting-Specific Programs - Former Cressey Sports Performance intern Jamie Smith shares some insights to help you plug up the holes in traditional powerlifting programs.

2. Going Out With a Bang: Creating and Implementing Workout Finishers - CSP-FL coach Jason Jabour delivered some great insights on how to cap off a great training session with an appropriate finisher.

3. 7 In-Season Training Strategies to Maintain Strength - CSP-MA Director of Performance John O'Neil covers some strategies for maintaining strength during the competitive season.

4. The Truth About Dodgeball and Tag - Lee Taft is a tremendous coach on the speed and agility front, and in today's post, he touches on a controversial topic: the elimination of dodgeball and tag from youth physical developmental programs.

5. What Research Can Tell Us About "Super Champion" Athletes - Tennis training expert Matt Kuzdub delves into commonalities of success among the most high achieving athletes - and how they differentiate themselves from those who don't quite "make it."

I'll be back soon with the top strength and conditioning features from 2018.

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