Home Posts tagged "Medicine Ball Workouts"

Making Sense of Rotational Medicine Ball Progressions

If you've followed our work at Cressey Sports Performance for any length of time, you know that we're big fans of training rotational power with medicine ball variations. With that in mind, I wanted to use today's blog to outline some of our strategies for introducing and progressing these exercises in our programs.

Step 1: Stationary Anti-Rotation - These exercises teach bracing on the front leg and emphasize thoracic (upper back) rotation. The split-stance anti-rotation medicine ball scoop toss is a good example.

Step 2: Stationary Rotation: These exercises emphasize hip loading, force transfer, and thoracic rotation delivering the arm, but the base of support doesn't change much (if at all). The rotational medicine ball shotput is an example.

Step 3: Momentum Rotation - These exercises teach athletes to create and utilize momentum as they work into the front hip (imagine riding a bike into a curb). The step-behind rotational medicine ball shotput is an example.

Step 4: Eccentric Pre-Loading Rotation: These exercises teach athletes to get in and out of the back hip while better making use of the stretch-shortening-cycle (think of keeping the head behind the belly button as long as possible). The step-back rotational medicine ball scoop toss is an example.

Step 5: Eccentric Pre-Loading with Momentum Rotation: These exercises combine the previous two categories to try to make things as athletic as possible. The 2-hop to rotational medicine ball scoop toss is a good example.

With this progression in mind, it's important to recognize that athletes need to earn the right to move from one step to the next. Steps 3-5 are far to advanced for 13-15-year-old athletes who have very little body awareness or foundational strength. And, aggressive progressions may be potentially harmful in even advanced athletes if they aren't prepared for the extensive hip-shoulder separation that takes place. Even with our professional athletes, I'll start athletes with the earliest stages in the progression during their initial off-season training programs.

Also, whenever I post about medicine balls, I invariably get the question: what brand do you prefer? I'm a fan of the Perform Better Extreme Soft Toss medicine balls, as they provide the right blend of durability and rebound. The overwhelming majority of our rotational medicine ball work is in the 4-8lb range.

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Exercise of the Week: Knee to Knee Rollover Medicine Ball Stomps

If you've followed my writing for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a big fan of using medicine ball training for power development with our athletes. We have both rotational and overhead variations - and sometimes, we have drills that combine the two. Enter the knee-to-knee rollover medicine ball stomp.

Key Coaching Points:

1. Don't rush the back hip rotation; rather, sit into that hip for what seems like an uncomfortable long time. This allows hip-shoulder separation to occur.

2. Minimize lower back arching.

3. Be firm into the ground on the front leg. Some individuals will stiffen up on that front leg with more knee extension, while others will be slightly more flexed.

4. Perform 3-4 reps per side.

5. We utilize this exercise several months into the offseason after we've had a chance to optimize overhead and rotational medicine ball technique with less complex drills. Athletes have to earn this one.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/18/17

It's a short week on the content front, as I posted last week's recommended reading a few days late. We are still making things happen, though!

Eccentric Overload with Flywheel Training and Rehabilitation - This is an awesome article from the power couple, Jennifer Reiner-Marcello and Brandon Marcello. We've been using the Versapulley more and more in our training, and this delves into some of the mechanisms that make it so great.

Brian St. Pierre on the Fundamentals of High-Performance Nutrition - Brian has been a friend, employee, and trusted resource for over a decade - and podcasts like this show why that's the case. He delivers some excellent content.

11 Ways to Make an Exercise Harder - Earlier this week, on social media, I shared this old article of mine from T-Nation. It's a collection of important programming progressions and regressions that anyone writing strength training programs should understand.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 15

This is my first installment of this series since October, so hopefully I can atone for that with a solid January performance. Here goes!

1. On several occasions, I've written that if you are going to include an exercise in a program, you absolutely have to be able to justify how it's going to create the training effect you want. In particularly, this is a question that should be asked constantly during sprinting and agility progressions. The end goal is obviously to (safely) put a lot of force into the ground as quickly as possible to create powerful athletic movements in all three planes of motion. Sometimes, I feel like we get very caught up in just programming drills for the sake of programming drills. There are a million different types of skipping drills, for instance, and we use a lot of them. Athletes certainly ought to be able to skip, but at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves if making a skip more advanced and elaborate is really going to make an athlete move better. Or, would we be better off devoting that training volume to actual sprint work? There isn't really a "correct" answer to these questions, but I do think it's important to critically analyze our programs to see if the carryover from drills to actual athletic performance is really that good.

2. Earlier today, I was discussing outfield "jumps" with a few of our Cressey Sports Performance clients, including Sam Fuld, an Oakland A's outfielder who is well known for making some pretty crazy plays in center field. We were talking about lower-body movement (hip turn, crossover run, etc.) during the initial break as he reads a ball off a bat, but as we went to actually find some video online, my attention went elsewhere. Check out this play where Sam traveled 58 feet to make a diving catch:

What I noticed was the fact that he never actually got upright. He stayed in acceleration mode the entire time. If you replay the video from above, watch the :08 through :11 second interval. You'll rarely see a player cover more ground in the field.

This is yet another reason why I think a 30-yd (or home-to-first) time is more appropriate for assessing baseball-specific speed than a 60-time. Baseball players rarely get to top speed, whether it's in running the bases or playing the field. And, more importantly, they'd never do it in a straight line. I'm beginning to think that a 60-time is about as useful for a baseball evaluation as the 225lb bench press test is for NFL players...

3. Remember that not all your anterior core work has to be slower tempo drills like rollouts and fallouts, or low-level isometrics like prone bridges. Rather, remember that any time you go overhead while maintaining a neutral spine, you're working to resist excessive extension at your lumbar spine. In other words, overhead med ball drills can be great anterior core progressions - and here's a way to take them to the next level:

4. Resistance bands are awesome on a number of training fronts. They can be used to accommodate the strength curve, making the movements more challenging at the points in the range of motion where we are strongest. They can also be used to deload certain movements at positions where we are weakest.

In sports performance training, though, I'd say that their biggest value is in teaching direction - and subsequently loading it. As an example, I like band-resisted broad jumps because they allow us to produce force in a path that would be challenging to load in any other way. And, we need to produce force in this path during everyday athletic endeavors:

This is an area where Lee Taft really excels. When I watch experienced coaches teaching and coaching, I look for patterns that stand out: strategies that they return to frequently. In his new Certified Speed and Agility Coach course, Lee uses a band a ton to teach direction of force application and create appropriate angles for acceleration. It made me realize that we can get more efficient in some of our coaching strategies by busting out the band a bit more.

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Speaking of Lee, the early-bird $100 discount on his new certification wraps up this Friday at midnight. I'm finishing it up myself and really benefited on a number of fronts - and our entire Cressey Sports Performance staff will be going through the resource as well. You can learn more about the course HERE.

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Exercise of the Week: Split-Stance Anti-Rotation Medicine Ball Scoop Toss

In this installment of "Exercise of the Week," I want to introduce you to one of my favorite "introduction" medicine ball exercises, the Split-Stance Anti-Rotation Medicine Ball Scoop Toss.

It's incredibly useful for two primary reasons:

First, it trains hip/trunk separation through good thoracic mobility (as opposed to excessive lower back motion). Effectively executing this "separation" is key for high-level performance in any rotational sport.

Second, it teaches athletes to have a firm front side for accepting force. One common problem both hitters and pitchers can encounter is that they lack sufficient appropriate timing and multi-directional strength to “stiffen up” on the front side lower extremity.

If they can’t get this right in a controlled environment like the weight room, they sure as heck won’t be able to do it in a chaotic, competitive environment when they’re trying to adjust to a 83mph slider right after a 95mph fastball. Compare the demonstration video from above (Andrew is not a rotational sport athlete) to the following video of one of our professional pitchers, and you'll appreciate how trainable (and beneficial) these proficiencies are.

One additional point about this exercise: because there isn't aggressive hip rotation taking place, it's one of the few medicine ball drills I'll actually continue to utilize during the season with some of our baseball players. That said, I think it's a fantastic exercise that can be used for athletes and general fitness clients alike. Who wouldn't want to be more powerful with better movement quality?

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7 Strategies for Strength Training with the Minimum

Recently, my wife and I vacationed in Italy, and fitness nuts that we are, we frequented several hotel gyms - none of which were particularly well equipped. Here's the one from hotel in Florence; yes, it was just dumbbells up to 10kg.

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Immediately upon leaving, I sent an email to Cressey Performance coach Andrew Zomberg (@AndrewZomberg), who I knew was the guy to write up a post on having a great training effect without much equipment. This is what he pulled together; enjoy! -EC

Greater equipment availability generally yields greater efficiency because in order to induce structural or functional adaptations, you have to “force” the body to do so. Unfortunately, getting to a gym is not always feasible. The good news? Resistance training does not always have to depend on cable machines, power racks, and barbells.

Inaccessibility to gym equipment can be discouraging. The good news is that by creating structured programs and discovering new ways to challenge yourself with progressions, you can easily elicit a comparable training effect, just as if you were in a gym. Here are some options:

1. Body Weight Exercises

Undoubtedly, your body weight is the easiest, most accessible piece of equipment to utilize anywhere, anytime. Allowing for a more natural range of motion, body weight exercises enhance spatial awareness and improve the proficiency of movements since no other load is being used.

Progression: Alter the range of motion by increasing the total distance of the movement. For example, when doing a push-up, rather than keeping your feet in contact with the floor, try elevating them to increase stability demands of the core as well as the shoulder girdle. You can also add isometrics to any bodyweight exercise at halfway points and end ranges to impose added stress. You can use tri-sets to keep rest periods short and work in some bonus mobility work.

Sample Bodyweight Workout

Perform each tri-set three times:

A1) Body-Weighted Squats
A2) Push-up
A3) Wall Hip Flexor Mobilizations

B1) Reverse Lunge
B2) Prone Bridge Arm March
B3) Rocking Ankle Mobilizations

C1) 1-Leg Hip Thrusts off Bench
C2) Side Bridge
C3) Split-Stance Kneeling Adductor Mobilizations

2. TRX Suspension Training

Easily portable, this piece of equipment can be anchored almost anywhere and targets virtually every muscle group. The TRX suspension trainer is a great tool for full-body awareness, as most of the exercises call for optimal body alignment from head to toe. It also places a significant emphasis on the core by challenging your ability to resist unwanted movement in every plane of motion at the lumbar spine.

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Progression: Lengthen the lever arm to reposition your center of mass further from the anchor to increase the total range of motion. Or, slow down the lift to create a greater time under tension effect thus imposing muscular damage for hypertrophy gains.

Sample TRX Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

TRX Anti-Rotation Press: x 8/side
TRX Inverted Row: x 10
TRX Bulgarian Split-Squat: x 8/leg
TRX Push-up: x 8
TRX Fallouts: x 10
TRX Overhead Squat: x 8

On a related note, if you haven't checked out EC's article, 10 Ways to Progress an Inverted Row, it's definitely worth a read!

3. Dumbbell and Kettlebell Exercises

Often found in hotel gyms, these are very affordable for the home or office and provide a wide range of exercise selection. Their biggest advantage is they provide enough options to gain a solid training effect. If the weight selection is too low, you can use higher volume schemes and minimize rest periods. When completing these complexes, execute the exercises without dropping the implement to increase the overall intensity.

DB Progression: Use stability balls, or half and tall kneeling positions to create a greater instability factor. Or, focus on the eccentric portion by taking a few more seconds to lower the weight in order to stress the muscle.

KB Progression: Turn the kettlebell upside down to a “bottoms-up” position to change the dynamic of the exercise. By moving the object’s center of mass further from the rotation (your wrist), you create more instability, forcing co-contractions of all the muscles of the upper extremity.

Sample Dumbbell Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

DB Goblet Squat: x 8
DB Renegade Row: x 8/arm
Offset DB Split-Squat: x 8/side
1-Arm DB Floor Press: x 10/arm
DB Prone Arm Marches: x 6/arm
DB Burpees: 3 x 15

Sample Kettlebell Complex:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

KB Front Squat: x 6/side
KB 1-Arm Row: x 8/arm
KB 1-Arm, 1-Leg RDL: x 8/leg
Half-Kneeling 1-Arm KB OH Press: x 10/arm
KB Swings: x 20
1-Arm KB Bottoms-up Waiter’s Carry: x 25 yards/arm

4. Resistance Bands

Very portable, bands are inexpensive and create an accommodating resistance effect. In other words, where you are biomechanically the weakest, the band will reduce its level of tension at that given position. The same effect will occur as you become biomechanically stronger; the level of tension will increase at that specific range. Bands also allow for direct arm and hip care for deeper muscles that provide the adequate stability for these multi-planar joints.

Progression: Play around with your base of support. Utilizing a narrow stance or tall kneeling position will alter the stability demands, making it more challenging to maintain joint neutrality. Or, add isometrics at the end range by holding the contraction for 5 seconds.

Sample Band Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Overhead Band Squats: x 10
Band-Resisted Push-up: x 10
Side-Bridge w/Row: x 8/arm
X-Band Walks: x 12/side
Standing Split-Stance Vertical Anti-Extension Press: x 12
1-arm Band Rotational Row w/Weight Shift: x10/arm

5. Medicine Balls

Affordable and found in many hotel gyms, these are great for linear and rotational power, given how quickly you must produce force for maximal output, and how the stretch-shortening cycle plays into each exercise. Medicine balls are also good for core activation due to their emphasis on optimal alignment with overhead and rotational patterns.

Progression: Speed up the movement to increase your heart rate and enhance your power skills. Or, simply add more volume to the complex.

Sample Medicine Ball Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Overhead Med Ball Slams: x 12
Rotational Scoop Toss: x 8/side
Side-to-Side Overhead Slams: x 8/side
Tall Kneeling Chest Passes: x 12
Hip-Scoops to Wall: x 12

6. Gliders

Very portable, gliders (our favorite is the ValSlide) can conveniently be replaced by household items - like furniture sliders or even towels - if you're in a pinch. Given their size and usage, these disks provide a tremendous amount of direct and indirect core work, since most of the exercises force you to fight against gravity in an anti-extension and anti-rotational manner. Gliders also improve stability due to the unnatural surface environment on which each exercise is performed.

Progression: Change your base of support by elevating an arm or leg off the floor. Decreased points of stability will call for greater concentration of the core in order to maintain optimal spinal alignment during each movement. If accessible, add an external load such as a weighted vest for a real challenge.

Sample Glider Routine:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Reverse Lunges: x 8/leg
1-arm Push-up: x 8/arm
Leg Curls: x 12
Bodysaws: x 10
Mounting Climbers: x 30 seconds

7. Stability Ball Exercises

A staple in most hotel gyms and very affordable for home or office use, stability balls provide a level of volatility that challenges your strength. Basically, in order to combat the dynamic perturbations of stability balls, additional muscles must co-contract to prevent joint deviations.

Progression: Elevate your feet or attempt pause reps at the end range to make the unstable environment even more challenging. Or, create additional perturbations by having a training partner hit the ball in different directions in an effort to knock you off your stability during the lift.

Sample Stability Ball Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Elevated Push-ups: x 8
Leg Curls: x 10
Stability Ball Rollouts: x 10
Dead Bugs – arms and legs: x 6/side

A Few Notes

  • Be sure to invest a few minutes with soft-tissue work and ground-base and dynamic movements to prepare your body for the workout and prevent injury.
  • Be mindful of areas that need more emphasis than others. For example, structural balance is a common issue due to postural adaptations. Placing more emphasis on the posterior chain and upper back will reduce the overused areas and still provide a solid training effect.
  • Select "casual" rest intervals for most programs. But if you decide to create a greater disturbance, reduce the rest time. Just make sure the load is relatively low so form is not compromised. For complexes, the goal is not to put the object down until you have completed the entire round of exercises prescribed!
  • Make an effort to log your workouts. Noting your exercise selection, volume, load, and tempo will spare time in programming your next workout so you do not backtrack but rather progress.

Give some of these ideas a try next time you're in an "equipment pinch" and I think you'll find them to be a lot harder than they look!

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Pitching Performance: Understanding Trunk Position at Foot Strike – Part 3

Today marks the third installment of this series on trunk position at foot strike during the pitching delivery.  In case you missed them, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.  In those installments, we outlined the problem of early and excessive lumbar (lower back) extension, and how to address it with drill work.  In today's final installment, we'll introduce some drills we like to use with our athletes to teach them about proper positioning and build stability within those positions.

At the end of the day, there are a few things that can contribute to a pitcher drifting into excessive extension from the time he begins his leg kick all the way through when his front foot strike.  Obviously, the foremost concern is what cues the athlete has been given that may be leading him in this direction.  Once those have been cleaned up, though, we have to look to see how physically prepared an individual is to get to the right positions. I think the first question you have to ask in this case is, "Where does the posture start?"  If an athlete looks like this at rest, he's going to at least look like this dynamically - and this heavily extended posture is going to be much more exaggerated.

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With that in mind, step 1 is to educate athletes on what acceptable resting posture is.  In this case, we need the athlete to learn to bring the pelvis and rib cage closer together, most notably through some posterior pelvic tilt.  Once that has been established, here are some of my favorite warm-up drills for athletes with this heavily extended posture. You'll notice that exhaling fully and learning to get the ribs to come down are key components of these drills.

In addition to these low-level core stability exercises, we'll progress to some balance drills, especially in the early off-season.  Effectively, we're teaching athletes to resist extension and rotation in single-leg stance.  Yes, it's static balance training, but I firmly believe these drills have carryover to bigger and better things at higher speeds. And, you're certainly not going to overtrain on them, so you've got nothing to lose.

With all these exercises out of the way, it takes a lot more high level core stability for this posture to carry over to the high level throw.  You need to improve both anterior core control (your ability to resist excessive extension/arching) and rotary stability (your ability to resist excessive rotation at the lower back).  I've outlined loads of options on these front, but here are two to get the ball rolling for those who aren't up to speed on my writings just yet:

And, remember that the different types of core stability never work in isolation - especially during the basebal throw.  Check out this video for more details:

The core stability you build must, however, be accompanied by a strong lower half.  Candidly, I don't think having a huge squat is necessary.  Athletes seem to get much better carryover from deadlift variations, in my experience - likely due to the fact that the deadlift does such a tremendous job of teaching good hip hinging.  We see so many athletes who drift (LHPs toward 1st base, and RHPs toward 3rd base) early in the leg kick and subsequent movement toward home plate in part because they can't hip hinge at all.  Once you've gotten that hip hinge back (in part with the toe touch video from above), you have to strength train in that pattern to get it to stick.  For the most detailed deadlift technique video tutorial out there, check out my free one here.

Additionally, single-leg strength is insanely important, and there are lots of ways to attack it. 

I think it's equally important to be able to build and maintain strength outside the sagittal plane, especially when it comes to carrying that good hip hinge over to movements when a pitcher is starting to "ride his hip" down the mound.  With that said, definitely check out an article I wrote previously, 7 Ways to Get Strong Outside the Sagittal Plane.

Once you've established hip and shoulder mobility, core stability, and lower half strength, you can really start to make the most of your medicine ball training.  As you can see, I think Tim Collins is a great example from which young throwers can learn a lot, as he has built up a lot of these qualities to make the most of a smaller frame in order to consistently throw in the mid 90s.  That said, I couldn't ask for a better demonstrator for our medicine ball drills for a few reasons.

First, he always throws the ball with intent; there are no half-speed reps. If you want to develop power, you have to try to be powerful in each throw during training.  Second, his direction is outstanding.  You never see him drift forward as he builds energy to apply with aggressive hip rotation. Third, he's got a great hip shift, which is necessary to get the most out of his posterior chain.

As a follow-up to that video, CP coach Greg Robins has a great tutorial here to teach you how to get "in and out" of your hip on rotational medicine ball exercises:

As you can see, there are a lot of different factors that contribute to an athletes being in excessive extension - but also allowing that extension to carry over to their pitching mechanics to the point that trunk position will be out of whack at foot strike.  Additionally, these exercises should demonstrate to you that athletes who land in a very extended position - but still have success and don't want to change things - will need to take special precautions in terms of physical preparation to make sure that their bodies don't break down over time with this delivery style.

This wraps up our series on understanding trunk position at foot strike during the pitching delivery; we appreciate you following along for all three articles!I If you'd like to learn more about how we manage throwers, be sure to register for one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships.  The next one will take place December 8-10.

 

 

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Free Presentation: Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes

It's been a while since I updated the free bonus I give to all my baseball-specific newsletter subscribers when they sign up for this free mailing list, so I figure now is as good a time as ever.  With that in mind, by entering your name and email in the opt-in below, you'll be emailed access information so that you can watch my 47-minute seminar presentation, Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes.  I've given this presentation to more than 10,000 coaches, players, sports medicine professionals in the past 18 months, and it's been a big hit.

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In this free presentation, you'll observe a lot of our Cressey Performance athletes training and learn:

  • Why different athletes need different approaches to power development
  • Why it’s essential that you learn to train outside the sagittal plane
  • Which medicine ball and plyometric variations I use with baseball players
  • Why not all throwers have identical deceleration patterns or training needs
  • How your arm care programs can be improved to reduce the risk of injury and improve throwing velocity

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Hope you enjoy it.  Thanks for your continued support - and please don't hesitate to share this page to those who you think might be interested in and benefit from the information I present.

*Note: We respect your privacy and won't share your information with anyone.  Instead, we'll deliver you awesome content on a regular basis!

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 30

Here are this week's strength and conditioning tips, courtesy of Greg Robins.

1. Stress the “Hip Shift” with rotational med ball drills.

In this video I would like to detail the most important factor when using medicine ball exercisess to improve rotational power. Additionally, I have included a couple drills to help athletes with shifting from one hip to the other.

2. Consider adding work before you take away rest.

Often, you will set up your training sessions based on work to rest ratios. For example:

5 sets of 5 with one minute of rest.

OR

30 seconds of work with 30 seconds of rest.

Whether we are working to improve an athlete’s work capacity, or programming for a fat loss client, the idea is that we are calling for consistent high output efforts with incomplete rest intervals.

My suggestion is that you add repetitions or small increases in time BEFORE you take away rest. Why? The answer is simple: if you want high outputs, you are more likely to get them when you have more rest, albeit incomplete rest. Over the course of a program, use a progression where you add work first, then go back to where you started and take away rest the second go around. This way you are more likely to get better outputs.

Using our first example:

The first month would include adding 1 rep per workout or adding a few seconds while keeping the 1 minute, or 30 seconds of rest, respectively. In the following month, you can keep the work at 5 reps or 30 seconds and take away small amounts of rest each workout. In the months to follow you can start to combine elements of each.

3. Know when to buy organic produce when you’re on a budget.

I have never been in a situation where I didn’t need to count my pennies when it came to buying food for the week. That being said, I have filled my head with too much information not be informed when it comes to the safety of the food I buy. Therefore, I have to be consider how I can stay smart with my food choices and my finances. One of the best pieces of advice I received a while back had to do with when to buy organic produce. As a rule of thumb, I buy organic fruits and veggies when I plan on eating the skin, and I don’t when I plan on removing the skin.

For example, when it comes to berries, apples, and leafy greens, I always go organic. When I buy bananas, pineapple, or spaghetti squash, I just buy the cheapest I can find. Keeping this in mind, I also tend to buy fruits and veggies that fit my budget at the time in respect to my rule of thumb. Give it a try and save some dough!

4. Try this variation of the reverse crunch.

5. Consider this study when developing your strength and conditioning programs.

Earlier this year, I presented at our first annual Cressey Performance Fall Seminar. I spoke on the various qualities of “strength” an athlete may acquire and display. A large part of what I stressed was the relationship between strength qualities and how some exercises (and improvement of said exercises) share a more direct relationship with increased performance in an athlete’s sport of choice.

Recently, I came across this study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The researchers examined how various field related strength and performance tests correlate to a golfer’s club head speed (CHS). Not surprisingly, it was found that better rotational medicine ball throw outputs and squat jump outputs correlated with better CHS.

The study describes the finding as “movements that are more concentrically dominant in nature may display stronger relationships with CHS.”

The take away is that we must make sure that our athletes have great absolute strength (which can be measured eccentrically), but also the ability to call upon that strength quickly and use it concentrically. If there is a major deficit between their ability to use their strength against a very sub maximal load (such as a golf club, baseball, or their body), then we are missing the mark in making them more productive on the field. Be sure to test and improve not only maximal strength numbers, but also power outputs in time dependent situations. These can include testing and programming various jumps, sprints, and throws.

Looking to take the guesswork out of your strength and conditioning programs?  Check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 15

Here's this week's list of random tips to make you a little more awesome with your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, with contributions from Greg Robins.

1. Outsource your cooking innovation.

One of the reasons folks "cheat" on their diets is that they don't do a good job of incorporating variety in their healthy food choices.  Unless you are one of the 1% of the population who has outstanding willpower, eating the same thing over and over again is a recipe for feeling deprived - and that can only lead to some less-than-quality time with Ben and Jerry.

If you're someone who isn't all that creative in the kitchen, consider allocating some funds to a cookbook that features healthy recipes.  One of my favorites, Anabolic Cooking, is actually on sale for 52% off ($40 off) this week only. 

2. Make roasted chicken breast with spinach and walnut stuffing.

Speaking of the cookbook; here's a great recipe from it.

Ingredients:

- 4 large fresh chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (average 8oz per breast)
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- 2 tbsp of garlic
- 1/4 cup walnuts crushed
- Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Olive oil (not extra virgin)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Butterfly chicken breasts (cut along side and lay out flat leaving attached at one end like a book) and lay out flat on cutting board. You can pound it slightly to flatten a bit if you want.
2. Rub both sides with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Lightly wilt spinach in non-stick pan, or if using frozen just thaw.
4. Spread roasted garlic paste onto one half on inside of chicken breasts.
5. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.
6. Place spinach on top of walnuts.
7. Fold top over and place on a rack fitted inside a sheet pan or roasting pan.
8. Place chicken in oven and bake for 20 minutes on 400. Then reduce heat to 325 and roast for an additional 30 minutes, or until inside stuffing reaches 145 degrees.
9. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information (four servings)

Calories: 407
Protein: 55g
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fat: 19g

*A special thanks goes out to Anabolic Cooking author Dave Ruel for allowing me to reprint this recipe.

3. Consider using concentric-only exercises for "off-day" training.

The most stressful, and therefore demanding part of an exercise is actually the eccentric, or lowering phase. This is where the majority of muscle damage occurs, and the part that will elicit the most muscular soreness. If you're like me, you enjoy doing some kind of physical activity on a daily basis. Some people scoff at the idea of never taking a rest, but in reality, moving is good for you, and it can be done daily. If done incorrectly, it can interfere with recovery and lead to overtraining. If done correctly, it can keep you focused and actually speed up your recovery.

While there are multiple ways to go about off day exercise correctly, one option is to use mostly eccentric-free exercise choices. As examples, think of sled pushing, dragging, and towing. Additionally you can attach handles or a suspension trainer to your sled and do rows, presses, and pull-throughs. Another option is medicine ball exercises, which can be organized into complexes and circuits, or KB and sledgehammer swings, which all have minimal eccentric stress. These modalities will get blood flow to the appropriate areas and give you a training effect that won't leave you sore, or stimulated to an extent that mandates serious recovery time.

4. Keep track of more than your one-rep max.

The ultimate rookie mistake in strength training is going for a one-rep max too often. You rarely need to train at the 100% intensity in order to get stronger. The issue is that most people only have that number as a benchmark in their minds. Therefore, the only way they know to measure progress is to constantly test that number over. This has two major flaws.

First, they train at that intensity too often, and all too often miss repetitions, essentially training above 100%. This teaches their body to miss reps, and leaves them neurally fried and unable to perform. Second, they get impatient with their training because they don't realize new personal records throughout the training cycle. The consequence is that their impatience leads to unscheduled, and too frequent, attempts at new one-rep personal records, bringing us back to point number one. "What gets measured, gets managed,"so make a point of keeping track of repetition maxes. Testing your 3- and 5-rep maxes, for example, are also perfectly good ways to measure progress. Actually, they are better numbers to monitor as training those intensities is more repeatable.

5. Make your home a "safe house."

No, I am not talking about replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors, although that is certainly important. What I am referring to has to do with nutrition. Your home should be a place where you are unable to make poor nutritional choices. Discipline is a function of decision making, or making choices. Many people relate great discipline to an ability to say "yes" or "no" in response to a question - even if it comes from one's own mind ("Should I devour that box of donuts?").

The truth is most of us might not be disciplined enough to make great choices at the drop of a hat, but you can be disciplined enough to prepare yourself for those moments that test you. Instead of keeping unhealthy foods in your house, have the discipline to throw away excess desserts after a party, and not keep certain foods in your fridge or cabinets. You can set yourself up for success, or you can tempt yourself by continually trying to prove you have the incredible discipline to only eat these foods in moderation. You will find that when you limit the consumption of more "relaxed" foods to "outside venues," you will be eating them with other people, and therefore are more likely to eat less of them, enjoy them more, and have them less often; these are all good things! 

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