Home Posts tagged "Maximum Strength" (Page 3)

The Core: Anti-Rotation

Q: I recently came across an article by Nick Tumminello on tests for dynamic abdominal strength, and the primary focus was sit-ups and reverse crunches.  Given your regard for training the core as an anti-rotator/resistor of lumbar hyperextension, do you have any thoughts on these testing protocols? A: First off, Nick is a brilliant guy with some awesome ideas.  For those who aren't familiar with him, check out his website, PerformanceU.net. Moving on to your question, it is interesting that you would ask about this, as Bill Hartman and I had a good email exchange last week where we were talking about just how "functional" most tests are.  And, more specifically, we were calling into question just how much particular assessments carry over to the real world of injury prevention and performance enhancement. A study from Stanton et al. in 2004 is a great example of the divide between testing proficiency and performance.  As I noted in my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, researchers found that six weeks of stability ball training improved core stability in young athletes - as it was measured (in a manner consistent with the training itself).  In other words, this is like saying that bench press training will make you better at bench pressing.  Well, duh!  The more important question, though, is whether or not that bench press performance will carry over to athletic performance.

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And, this is where the intervention in the Stanton et al. study fell short.  While their measure of "core stability" improved, it did not effect favorable changes in running economy or running posture, or modify EMG activity of the abdominal or erector spinae muscles.  In other words, it didn't carry over. A comparable result was seen in a study from Tse et al. in 2005.  After eight weeks of stability ball training in collegiate rowers, while "core stability" (as they tested it) improved, the experimental (core training) group showed no performance improvements over those who did ZERO core training during this time.  And, researcher tested several measures: "vertical jump, broad jump, shuttle run, 40-m sprint, overhead medicine ball throw, 2,000-m maximal rowing ergometer test." So, with respect to your question, I think the question is: do those sit-up and reverse crunch progressions matter for an athlete who spends his/her life in the standing position?  Wouldn't they have more predictive value with respect to performance in a mixed martial arts population that spends a significant amount of time in the supine position in competitive situations?  Interestingly, Nick has extensive experience with mixed martial artists, and that is probably why he's seen such strong predictive value from those tests. Additionally, these issues are worthy of consideration in an athletic population where fatigue is a big issue.  Does an assessment in a rested state necessarily carry over to a situation where movements may change under fatigue?  Bill wrote a great blog on this topic HERE. Food for thought; never take anything at face value.  As with almost everything you'll encounter in the world of fitness, the answer is "maybe" or "it depends."  You have to know how to assess and program accordingly. Maximum Strength Feedback I just got the following feedback on the Maximum Strength program from a trainer who recently completed it: "Body Weight 202--> 207 Bench 305--> 335 Broad Jump 99" --> 104" Back Squat 315 --> 355 Deadlift 335 --> 370 Chin Ups 202+60=262 --> 207+90 = 297 I had two big 'uh-huh' moments when going through this program. (You have been preaching these forever, but it did not truly hit me until the third phase of the program) 1) Improving my ankle and hip mobility was the key to improving my squat and deadlift numbers. 2) Increasing my pulling power was the key to improving my bench press. As a trainer, I had too much pride to ever follow anyone else's program.  I am glad I finally decided to check my ego and follow your program." Pick up your copy of Maximum Strength HERE. New Blog Content It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Static Posture Assessment Mistakes: Part 2 Pitchers vs. Quarterbacks vs. Swimmers Random Friday Thoughts All the Best, EC
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Random Friday Thoughts: 4/3/09

Okay, while this is normally RANDOM Friday Thoughts, I think it's important that we get one thing clear up-front... While I may be covering several topics today, in reality, the only thing that warrants any discussion is the Final Four - because UCONN is going to go out and dominate this weekend (and Monday).  This includes the men's and women's basketball teams, cheerleaders, mascots, fans, and hot-dog vendors.

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More of these on the way!

Anyway, let's get to this week's randomness (as if yesterday's wasn't awesome enough)

1. On Tuesday, there was a great guest post from Dan Lorenz on Mike Reinold's blog; it is definitely worth checking out: Low Back Pain and Hip Motion Correlation.  We've really worked in hip internal rotation aggressively over the past year or so, and it's been a huge help for our athletes.  I love this stretch, in particular:

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Of course, hip internal rotation is just one component of a good hip mobility program.  Check out the Magnificent Mobility DVD for more details.

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2.  I've been outspoken in the past about how I think that higher certification requirements - and possibly even mandated licensing - ought to be imposed in the personal training industry.  This article is a great example of why. 3. Can somebody tell me a) why in the world Michael Vick wants to give up a potential return to the NFL to become a construction worker, b) why any construction company would actually hire Michael Vick, and c) why this is even qualifies as news?  It seems like a lose-lose-lose situation, so I'll just drop it. 4. Here is a nice article about Cressey Performance athletes Matt Miller and Jason Roth, both of whom are playing baseball at Northeastern right now. 5. Apparently, age-related mental decline begins as early as age 27.  I turn 28 on May 20 - so I guess you could say that the good news is that this blog will get a lot more interesting once I'm senile (assuming I can even remember the log-in information). 6. I recently received this email before/after report from a happy Maximum Strength reader: "Eric, Thanks for the program.  When I first started lifting July '07, I had two long term goals - 400 lb deadlift by July '08 and 1,000 lb club (squat, deadlift, bench).  Well, here are my results from your program. Broad Jump: 87" to 94" Bench: 205 to 245 Squat: 215 to 265 Deadlift: 305 to 365 Chinups: None. Now 2. Just missed the 3rd. I am 6'4" and had never done one in my life. My weight went from 221 to 237.  I gained an inch in my arms, around the shoulders, and legs. In the end, I went from 725 lbs to 875 lbs; only 125 lbs to go. Thank you! Andy" Pick up your copy of Maximum Strength today! Have a great weekend!
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An Easy Way to Rotate Strength Exercises

I've written on numerous occasions about the importance of rotating strength exercises for long-term strength development.  In fact, it's one of the primary features of the Maximum Strength program. One concern that a lot of people have is that with a typical commercial gym set-up, it isn't always easy to rotate resistance training exercises.  These folks don't have specialty bars for lower-body training (giant cambered bar, safety squat bar, trap/hex bar, etc.) or upper body training (multipurpose bar, thick bar, etc.).  Also on the upper-body front, these folks might not have an extra training partner on-hand to hold the boards for board presses. A great, low-priced option that'll allow you to instantly expand your exercise pool is to pick up two pairs of Lynx Grips.

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These implements enable you to instantly change the diameter of the bar to get "improvised" thick bar training.  And, for the ladies out there, they are a lot easier on the hands - a much better choice than wearing gloves.  Lynx Grips are also really useful for those who aren't allowed to use chalk, as their texture can help to improve grip slightly on pulling movements. We use them all the time at Cressey Performance. For more information, check out LynxPT.com.

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Repetition and The Art of the Deload

Last week, my girlfriend had a big decision to make.  As she finishes med school (optometry) this year, she had two offers on her plate: one for a job in a private practice, and one for a one-year residency.  If she took the job, it meant we'd move out of the city.  Instead, she took the residency - which means that we can stay in our current apartment for another year once our current lease is up on August 15. Now, this might seem mundane to a lot of you, but not for me.  I'm a guy who has moved eight times in the past ten years - including three separate states.  I was 100% supportive of any avenue that she opted to choose, but I had made it clear that if we went anywhere, we were getting a moving company to do it.  After ten years of moving, I was sick of putting my life on hold for 3-4 days at a time to relocate.  It made me think of a quote I read over at T-Nation a few years back: "Stagnancy is often confused with stability." In the strength and conditioning world, status quo is largely understood to be unacceptable.  We always have to be looking to get better.  Maybe a basketball player is looking to push work capacity by perpetually increasing training volume on the court.  Powerlifters rotate max effort exercises each week.  And, bodybuilders may constantly changing programs in hopes of keeping muscles "confused" and growing. However, in the world of "Eric Cressey hates moving more than he hates drunk Yankees fans in center field at Fenway Park," stagnancy is a beautiful thing. This stagnancy in living arrangements gives me stability with my schedule and productivity - so I guess the quote from above isn't always accurate.  And, it makes me think about a few examples from the world of exercise where stagnancy can be a good thing: 1. Activation Drills: I often get asked how to make a scap push-up, scapular wall slide, or other mobility/activation drill harder.  The truth is that you really shouldn't be trying to make them much harder; they're just low-intensity drills designed to be done with perfect technique to get certain muscles "turned on" before you get to the more complex stuff.  So, if you want to make these movements harder, do a bench press or loaded push-up after the scap push-up, or a chin-up after the scapular wall slide (just a few examples). 2. Learning New Movement Patterns: It actually takes a lot more repetitions to ingrain something in your "movement memory" than you might think.  In fact, research has shown that elite athletes have practiced their specific skills over 100,000 times to make them "subconsciously" learned. Let's be clear: I'm not saying that you have to do 100,000 body weight lunges before you can start to load the movement and derive benefit from that training in other tasks.  However, for untrained folks and those returning from injuries, motor (re-)education takes repetition and time.  You can't expect a 16-year old girl to have an ACL reconstruction, then do a session of body weight lunges and be ready to go out and play soccer or basketball safely the next day.  In fact, in this example, "stagnancy" - or consistency in training and gradual progressions - truly does enhance stability in more ways than one. 3. The Biggest Loser - When this TV show is on, it is best for you to leave your remote stagnant on the coffee table and your TV turned off.  This will ensure that ratings go down for NBC and this mind-numbing crap will eventually get yanked off the air. 4. In-Season Athletes - As I wrote in Four Ways to Stay on Track, you have to be very careful with modifying things too aggressively with athletes who are in the middle of their competitive season.  New exercises can bring about delayed onset muscle soreness, which may interfere with performance.  And, increasing training volume and/or loads in-season can inhibit recovery between practice sessions and competition, or lead to overuse injury. 5. Deload Phases - I devoted an entire e-book, The Art of the Deload, to this topic, in fact.  Make no mistake about it: the overwhelming majority of your time in the gym should be focused on getting better.  However, there should always be deloading periods in your training where it's okay to intentionally be "stagnant," as these periods give rise to adaptation that make you better in the long-term.

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These five examples are really just the tip of the iceberg.  Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below to add to the discussion for everyone's benefit. New Articles The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Benchers was published at T-Nation last week. A Day in the Life of Eric Cressey was published at Precision Nutrition two weeks ago. Blog Updates Random Friday Thoughts Peak Power or Vertical Jump? The Most Detailed Maximum Strength Feedback To-Date Stuff You Should Read Have a great week! EC
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Healthy Knees, Steady Progress

Here's your weekly Maximum Strength success story: "Hey Eric, "Just finished the Maximum Strength program and it was awesome! I played college volleyball and and after letting myself get out of shape, I started weight training about 2 years ago. Obviously playing volleyball you could probably guess I have bad knees. Bedsides the typical tendinitis and jumpers knee, I also had a lateral release done on each knee. I never really squatted since I thought it was bad for my knee's, but one of the guys at the gym who is involved in powerlifting got me squatting. Then I found your book and everything in it seemed to line up with the way I was thinking about working out, and I can tell you my knee's feel better now than they ever have in my life. "I'm kicking myself for not doing all the energy workouts, but still stoked with the results. It's been about six weeks since I completed the program and I am already thinking of doing Maximum Strength again. "Thanks for the great book and looking forward to the next one. Me: Male 36 (37 in April) 6"3 Packing Day: Body weight: 216 (13.1% body fat) Broad jump: 98 inches. Box Squat: 365 lbs. Bench Press: 255 lbs. Deadlift: 365 lbs. 3 Rep Chin-up: 254 lbs. Moving Day: Body weight: 226 (14.1% body fat) Broad jump: 110 inches. Box Squat: 395 lbs. (just missed 405, didn't get the depth) Bench Press: 275 lbs Deadlift: 405 3 rep Chin-lup: 268 pounds Larry Quinn"

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Big Bench to Bigger Bench: Maximum Strength Feedback – 2/24/09

I just received an email from another satisfied Maximum Strength customer.  Steve made great progress overall, but to take an already-great bench and add 15 pounds to it in four months with no change in body weight after 10 years of lifting is really impressive. "Coach Cressey, "I loved the Maximum Strength program!!  I just finished it and the results were amazing.  I currently have two friends on the program and they are also doing quite well. "I've trained pretty consistently for about the last 10 years.  My goals have changed throughout the years.  I used to weigh approximately 189 lbs, but have been focusing on strength and athleticism more recently as that is more applicable to my profession than being big.  Here are the results: Packing Day: Body weight: 172 Broad jump: 106 inches. Box Squat: 365 lbs. Bench Press: 315 lbs. Deadlift: 405 lbs. 3 Rep Chin-up: 232 lbs. Moving Day: Body weight: 171 Broad jump: 111 inches. Box Squat: 405 lbs. Bench Press: 330 lbs, with an almost at 345. Deadlift: 455 3 rep Chin-lup: 271 pounds Steve Estvold"

Get Your Strongest Body in 16 Weeks with the Ultimate Weight-Training Program

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The Most Detailed Maximum Strength Feedback To-Date

I received this email from Kevin Miller, a high school strength and conditioning coach in Pennsylvania, who recently completed the Maximum Strength program: I recently completed the 16 week Maximum Strength program by Eric Cressey, and I wanted to give my review on the program. I am 37 years old. I played H.S football and baseball and had good strength and speed. From 1995-2004 I switched gears and became an Endurance athlete (marathons and Iromans). I had great endurance and could run forever but I went from probably a 28-29 inch vertical to probably a 19-20 inch vertical. Over the past few years I have jumped back and forth from endurance to strength programs. I saw results in both but I never stuck to one program. Two years ago I purchased Inside-Out by Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman. I thought it was a great program, so I started to read more about Mike, and in turn, Eric - and was instantly impressed with what he had to say, as I'm a volunteer sports performance coach at the high school where I teach. Over the past year I have read his articles and watched his DVDs, so, when Max Strength came out I was hooked and decide to STICK to a program. Below are my results (Pre and Post) PRE------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------POST BW                               146 lbs                                                 151 lbs Broad Jump                88 inches                                         94 inches (6 inches) Bench Press                 195                                                      220 (25 lbs) Box Squat                    255                                                      325 (70 lbs) Deadlift                        275                                                      315 (40 lbs) Three rep Chin up        BW + 44 lbs                                       BW + 58 lbs (19 lbs) Notes/Comments: Overall, I was very pleased with the results. As far as BW, I was happy to gain 5 lbs, to be honest. I am a father with two kids and a third on the way. I never get to slow down. After school (I trained in the morning before school), I'm in the weight room with high school kids for 2 hrs (boys and girls). Although I am not "training," I probably do 100 body weight squats plus several other movements because the kids need to see what I'm recommending. Physically although I only gained 5 lbs I look bigger, but not bulky - just thicker and more athletic Overall, out of a rating of 10. I would give this program a 10. Here is why: 1. If you follow it, you will get STRONGER. The book is MAXIMUM strength, and it does what it says it does. 2. I feel really strong. Before, I had decent strength, but now I just feel a lot stronger 3. The mobility part is excellent. I knew what to expect here since I have several of Eric's products but this is where so many people can benefit (especially high school kids). I never stretched a day in my life in hs. Now, I would never start a workout with doing mobility work. 4. As a coach, I became a better coach by doing this program. Plain and simple, I now know how it feels to get under the bar with 325 lbs on my back. I realize that's a warm-up for some people but for me at 150 lbs it's a lot. 5. The progressions are excellent. 6. Nutritionally, there is some great advice in the book. To be honest, I think I've always had a good diet but for anyone who doesn't there are some great points. Who can benefit from this book? 1. Any high school kid or "Mom/Dad" looking for strength and results. 2. Any high schools coach (football, track, hockey,etc). As much as we would like to "customize programs" for each athlete, it's impossible at the high school level. I train 50-60 kids at 3 pm, and at my school, I don't have the time, manpower, or money to make up individual programs. Sure, I can screen kids and put in groups, but I believe if high school kids followed this for 16 weeks, it would be better than 95% of the program they are currently following Favorite exercises I never did before I read this book:
  1. Rack pulls: I loved the feeling I got in my posterior chain
  2. Pallof Press: Much harder than it looks
  3. Anderson squats: I loved this type of front squat.
Overall, great book, and if you follow this program, you will get stronger Kevin Miller CSCS

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Random Friday Thoughts: 2/6/09

1. First thing's first: in a newsletter last year, I told you all about Sarah Neukom, who works with the Jimmy Fund in organizing special events.  Sarah raised over $8,000 for cancer research last year in running the Boston Marathon, and a lot of you generously donated to the cause through the mention in this newsletter.  This year, Sarah's running again, and she'd love your support - this time to raise over $10,000 for a lot of people who could really use it.  I encourage you to check out www.SarahSaidSheWould.com and make a tax-deductible donation to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. 2. Tomorrow, I'm headed back to my old stomping grounds - Storrs, CT - to see my first UCONN men's basketball of the year.  The seniors on this year's squad were freshman when I was last in campus, so I'm still bleeding some Husky Blue.

3. While we're on the topic of big verticals, a lot of our pro guys are wrapping up their off-season training at Cressey Performance before heading out to spring training, so we're doing some post-testing to gauge the progress they've made.  Probably the most impressive of the bunch jumping-wise has been Blue Jays prospect Tim Collins, Baseball America's Low A Reliever of the Year in 2008.  Tim added 10.8 inches to his vertical jump in just four months to get it up to 38.7 inches.

4. Someone asked me yesterday if I felt that it was necessary to be on a caloric surplus on the Maximum Strength program.   My response was, "That'll work, but a big surplus isn't necessarily. You'll actually notice that the resounding them within the book with respect to my own progress over the years is that I've built relative strength, not just absolute strength. So, you could still see excellent results just eating at maintenance - particularly if the volume is lower than your recent programs."

5. If you are near the Philadelphia/ New Jersey area and interested in bodyweight training (and if you are a regular reader of this blog, chances are that you are), consider checking out a great one day seminar given by Beast Skills' Jim Bathurst.  The date is March 1st, and the seminar is actually two parts (one basic and one advanced), so anyone can attend and participate fully.  Jim knows his stuff (check out his impressive YouTube clips on the Beast Skills site) and the seminar will help anyone who wants to develop full body strength and stability.  Check out Jim's site for details.  The seminar is hosted by my good buddy, Shon Grosse, who is a great physical therapist in Colmar, PA.

6. Just a quick happy birthday shoutout to Padres prospect Will Inman.  Will's up in Boston from Virginia to get down with us this off-season before heading out to Phoenix on Monday for spring training.  Everyone give Will some love and check him out at WilliamInman.com.

Have a great weekend!

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Deloading in Maximum Strength

Q: I am just finishing up Phase 1 of Maximum Strength, and I have a few questions about the loading. 1. When we have deload weeks, like in week 4, do we decrease the load or  is the decreased volume you prescribed the actual deload? I find myself increasing the load on weeks 2 and 4 to compensate for the decreased volume, but I have a feeling I am defeating the whole purpose of the deload. 2. When we are doing our sets, should we try to keep the same load for each set, or do we work up to a RM on our last set? A:  With respect to your first question, you are definitely doing the right thing. The best answer I can give is to get stronger! And, you will! So, if the reps go down, the weights should go up. And, if the reps stay the same, the weights should still (hopefully) go up. There are exceptions to this rule, of course - particularly as you get more and more advanced or have a previous history of injury. It'd be worth picking up a copy of my Art of the Deload e-book for details for only $12.99:

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As for your second question, I'd keep working up and only count the stuff that's at or above 90% of your best working weight for the day.  So, let's say you're doing three sets of three reps on front squats, and your progression goes something like this:

45x5, 95x3, 135x3, 165x3, 185x3, 200x3 (heaviest you can go, you discover)

So, you work backward from that 200 pounds to find that 90% of it is 180 pounds.  So, the only two sets that have "counted" thus far are 185 and 200 - so you need to do one more set between 180 and 200 pounds to finish up the 3x3.

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Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, Healthier: 1/29/09 Maximum Strength Feedback

I just received this email yesterday from a happy Maximum Strength customer: "Eric, "I just finished up with your Maximum Strength program and wanted to write you to let you know of the results.  Before I get to the good stuff, I wanted to thank you for writing such a comprehensive strength training program.  Not only was it challenging but it was also laid out in a format where it is easy to understand and follow.  I have not stopped talking about this program for 16 weeks and now that I have the results, I have people getting ready to jump on the Maximum Strength bandwagon. "Not only did I see an increase across the board in lifts and movements, but the soft tissue and mobility work opened up my hips and all but eliminated any IT band issues I was having previous to this.  I started this program with the idea that the conclusion would come just in time for me to start going back to my endurance training for this summer's triathlon circuit.  Now that I am done, I am at the strongest I have been in 12 years, I set a PR in deadlifts and I am in a frame of mind for my next race where I know I will be one of the strongest competitors in the field. "Here are the results from the program: Moving Day                                 Packing Day                                  Difference Weight - 201                                        212 lbs                                        + 11 lbs Broad Jump - 88"                                 115"                                            + 17" Squat - 385 lbs                                     445 lbs                                        + 60 lbs Bench - 300 lbs                                    325 lbs                                        + 25 lbs Deadlift - 385                                        455                                             + 70 lbs 3 Rep Chin - BW +30                         BW + 60                                     30 lbs + 11 of BW "To say I am excited about these results is an understatement.  I was a little bummed on the weight until I got my new circumference measurements done.  While I did add 11 pounds, I lost .5 inches off my waist and added 6, yes I said 6 inches to my chest/back/shoulders measurement.  The compliments I have gotten from friends and family are even more indicative of a successful program.  Not only did I set a new PR in dealift but I am most proud of the 3 rep chin max, where not only did I add muscle and body weight, I was also able to increase my strength and added additional external weight as well. "Thanks again.  I plan on recommending this program to friends, family and soon-to-be clients!" -Chris Bartl

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