Home Posts tagged "minimalist footwear"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/15/17

It's been an exciting and busy week, thanks to the launch of the new Minimus 20v6 Cressey Trainer coinciding with the last week of the Major League Baseball off-season.

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I'm happy to report that the shoes have sold really well - to the point that we're already sold out in several sizes. With that in mind, there are still some options for you to get them:

1. If you're looking for international shipping, Eastbay.com is your best bet. They should be making the shoe available on their site either today (Wednesday) or tomorrow.

2. If you're in the U.S. and your size is already sold out HERE at New Balance's website, Eastbay.com is also your best bet.

3. If you're in Canada and your size is already sold out HERE at New Balance's Canadian site, you can try SportChek.ca or Eastbay.com.

Now that all that is out of the way, let's get to this week's content!

Meet the First Performance Coach to Get His Own Signature Training Shoe - This article at Stack.com takes a look at the design process behind the new Minimus 20v6 Cressey Training sneaker.

As Spring Training Begins, Pitchers Enter Tommy John Danger Zone - Along with Alan Jaeger and Mike Reinold, I was interviewed for this USA Today article on the spike in injuries seen during spring training each year. 

Power Development for Powerlifters - This is an excellent post from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. I wish I'd had it back in the early 2000s to help my bar speed along, as it took me a few years to figure out that getting faster was a key to getting stronger for me.

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My New Favorite Training Sneakers

All the way back in 2011, I wrote up a detailed article about the New Balance Minimus, a shoe that had just been released and really caught my attention as the best option in a sea of minimalist sneakers that had flooded the market. That review - alongside my work with professional baseball players - actually led to a consulting deal with New Balance, and it's been a great partnership.

One of the biggest initiatives as part of that collaborative relationship was to find ways to continually improve the Minimus. Over the past six years, Cressey Sports Performance's staff and athletes have provided regular feedback to New Balance to fine-tune the designs - and early last year, they released Version 6, which has been extremely popular. And, last spring, I was psyched to learn that New Balance wanted to pair with us to release a Cressey Sports Performance themed Minimus, the Minimus 20v6 Cressey Trainer.

We've spent the last year fine-tuning the design, and we're excited to announce that it's now available for sale:

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This is a very limited edition shoe; only about 500 pairs were produced. With that in mind, if you'd like to pick up a pair, don't delay! You can check them out at the following links:

In the United States: http://www.newbalance.com/pd/minimus-20v6-cressey-trainer/UX20-V6.html#color=Alpha%20Red_with_White_and_Black&width=D

In Canada: http://www.newbalance.ca/en_ca/pd/minimus-20v6-cressey-trainer/UX20-V6.html#color=Alpha%20Red_with_White_and_Black&width=D

We hope you like them! Thanks for your continued support of Cressey Sports Performance! 

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The New Balance MX20V3: My Pick for 2013 Training Sneaker of the Year

Back in 2011, I wrote up a detailed post highlighting my favorite all-around training sneaker - and it turned out to be my most popular post of the year.  That very sneaker - the New Balance Minimus - has since been improved considerably, so I thought I'd use today's post to highlight those improvements and introduce my favorite training sneaker for 2013, the New Balance MX20V3.  I liked it so much that I wound up in a commercial for it with a few of our professional baseball players at Cressey Performance:

The sneaker is available in several different colors, so be sure to check out both the men's and women's options available. Enjoy!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/13/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reads:

When to Wear Minimalist Shoes - I thought this was a great post from Dean Somerset on a hot topic these days.  Dean, like me, is a fan of the New Balance Minimus.

As an interesting little aside to this, last week, I had a chance to preview the newest version of the Minimus (due out in December), and they're absolutely awesome.  Cool colors, awesome design, super durability, and great fit. I'm excited to rock them.

The Most Overlooked Continuing Education Opportunity for Fitness Professionals - My experience out at the Area Code Games reminded me of this old post of mine, as I had an opportunity to interact with kids from all over the country on the baseball field.  The athletes and clients you encounter can teach you a ton.

Glutes Gone Wild: Part 2 - Silly name, but good article from Ben Bruno nonetheless.  There are some exercise variations in here that we use quite often at CP.

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Improving Ankle Mobility without Increasing Knee Pain

It goes without saying that ankle mobility deficits are becoming more and more common these days.  It may be because:

1. Modern footwear is atrocious, with elevated heels, high tops, and rigid sides

2. We carry our center of mass too far forward thanks to postural distortions that encompass anterior pelvic tilt and forward head posture (among other ramifications).

3. We never utilize extensive dorsiflexion in our daily lives, whether it's in a full squat or high-speed running.

Of course, it's usually a combination of all these factors.  And, while we can try out minimalist sneakers to deal with problem #1 and tinker with our exercise program to work on problem #2, problem #3 is a bit more cumbersome, as many of these folks have anterior knee pain that is exacerbated with squatting, running, and ankle mobility exercises where the knee is driven in front of the toes, creating shear stress at the knee.  In other words, this ankle mobility drill might be great for someone with healthy knees, but painful for someone with a history of knee pain.

Interestingly, if you consider the functional anatomy of the plantarflexors (calf muscles) while looking at this mobility exercise, you're really only putting the soleus on stretch. The gastrocnemius, actually crosses both the knee and ankle, working as a knee flexor and plantarflexor.  So, while this drill may be "more functional" because it occurs in an upright position, it actually shortens the muscle at the knee as it lengthens it at the ankle.  And, the more the knee tracks forward, the more symptoms those with knee pain will get.

To that end, if we think back to the functional anatomy lesson we just had, we can get the gastrocnemius to fully lengthen by combining knee extension with plantarflexion - which puts us in a great position that minimizes shear stress at the knee. Problem solved.

After someone has utilized this second drill for a while and minimized their symptoms, it can be progressed to a knee-break ankle mobilization, which still creates a bit of shear stress, but not nearly as much as the first video I showed.  Because dorsiflexion is maxed out before knee flexion can occur, it seems - at least anecdotally - to reduce the discomfort that some folks feel.

So there you have it: different ankle mobilization strategies for different folks!  For more information on mobility progressions like this, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Wall Ankle Mobilizations with Adduction/Abduction

Assuming you haven't been living under a rock for the past few years, you've surely learned that ankle mobility is imperative to long-term lower-extremity health in strength and conditioning programs and actual sport participation.  If you need to learn why, check out this old post of mine: The Importance of Ankle Mobility. While I think the industry has done a great job of highlighting the need for incorporating ankle mobility drills in one's warm-up, I'm not convinced that we've done a good job of "exhausting" our creativity when it comes to those drills, as most of them occur purely in the sagittal plane.  While poor dorsiflexion is definitely the biggest issue at the ankle - and dorsiflexion does occur in the sagittal plane - I think we miss the boat when we only work on getting dorsiflexion in isolation.  In reality, you need multi-planar ankle mobility to be prepared for life's events, so it's advantageous to train it a bit in your warm-ups. So, I bring to you the wall ankle mobilization with adduction/abduction.  It's just like a regular wall ankle mobilization, but when you get to end range, you gently rock back and forth between adduction and abduction (and internal rotation and external rotation, in the process) to make it more of a multi-directional movement that also challenges hip mobility a bit. A special thanks goes out to Kansas City Royals pitcher Tim Collins for helping with the demonstration here:

A few important coaching cues/notes:

1. Everyone always asks whether or not I care what the back foot/leg is doing, and I don't.  Just focus on the front side.

2. The individual should feel a stretch in the posterior lower leg, not a pinching in the front.  If there is pinching in the front, it's a good idea to refer out to a good manual therapist.  In the meantime, you can train ankle mobility more conservatively with a rocking ankle mobilization:

3. If the individual's heel comes up off the ground, slide the foot closer to the wall to regress the exercise.

4. The drill should be performed barefoot or in minimalist footwear.

5. We usually perform this as three reps per leg, and each rep has a few glides toward adduction and abduction. You can use it during the warm-up, or as a filler between sets of compound movements.  I like it between sets of deadlifts, since you're already barefoot or in minimalist sneaker.

6. If you're a heavy pronator (really flat feet and knock-knees), you probably don't need to do the adduction (rock in) portion of each rep.

For more drills like this, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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The Best of 2011: Articles

With 2011 winding down, I'll be dedicating this week to the best content of the year, based on traffic volume at EricCressey.com.  I'll kick it off today with my most popular articles from the past year. 1. My New Favorite Training Shoe - This post received more than 3,000 views more than #2.  Apparently, footwear is a topic about which folks were anxious to read, and I gave a detailed review of all the minimalist footwear options I've tried - and folks shared it a ton.  Additionally, based on feedback on my Twitter account, a lot of people purchased the New Balance Minimus based on my recommendation and have absolutely loved it.

2. Your Arm Hurts?  Thank Your Little League, Fall Ball, and AAU Coaches. - This post received well over 1,000 Facebook "shares" and loads of Tweets, and I'm hopeful that this is indicative of parents, coaches, and players learning about how to approach arm care and throwing programs intelligently.  I think it was also popular because it was a good blend of scientific evidence and simple, everyday logic. 3. Tim Collins: Why Everyone Should Be a Kansas City Royals Fan (at least for a day) - This was my favorite post of the year, as it was a chance to celebrate a good friend and long-time Cressey Performance athlete who is everything that is right about Major League Baseball. As a cool little aside, traffic to this article played a large part in having "Tim Collins" trending on Twitter during his MLB debut on Opening Day in March.

4. Weight Training Programs: You Can't Just Keep Adding - It sounds like many of my readers were glad to hear that I was doing some writing on managing training stress.  There is a lot of common sense in this one, but sometimes, that's what people need! 5. Strength Training Programs and Squat Technique: To Arch or Not to Arch? - Here's a very misunderstood topic in the area of strength and conditioning technique.  You'll be happy to know that I'll be addressing it in great detail in the new Functional Stability Training resource that Mike Reinold and I are releasing soon. 6. Shoulder Hurts? Start Here. - In this piece, I outlined three sure-fire strategies that just about everyone can employ regardless of their shoulder issues.

7. Healthy Food Options: Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice from Your Government - One of the biggest surprises for me in 2011 was that my readers absolutely ate up (no pun intended) nutrition content, and summer Cressey Performance intern Tyler Simmons' guest blog perfect example.   He shared some great (and controversial) thoughts in this guest blog. 8. Correcting Bad Posture: Are Deadlifts Enough? - People want results, and they want them fast.  This post touched on whether or not the deadlift could be an optimal "shortcut" for getting to where you want to be. 9. Why the Gym's Out-of-Business and the Porn Store's Thriving - This was proof that I can write about just about anything.  Don't ever expect to see a content drought here at EricCressey.com.  The timing for this was really good, as I got the idea to write it right around the time that we released The Fitness Business Blueprint.

10. Lifting Heavy Weights vs. Corrective Exercise: Finding a Balance - I can definitely see how folks found this topic so interesting, as it's a very challenging balance to strike.  In fact, it was even a very challenging piece around which to wrap my brain! This wraps up our top 10 posts of 2011, but I'll be back soon with more "Best of" highlights from 2011.  Next up, I'll list my top product reviews of the year. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Baseball Strength and Conditioning: Early Off-Season Priorities 6-10

In Part 1 of this off-season baseball strength and conditioning series, I outlined the first five of my top 10 priorities when dealing with baseball players at the start of their off-season.  Today, I round out the top 10 “general” things always seem to be addressing with players coming in after a season.

1. Regaining lost mobility - This is an incredibly loaded topic that goes far beyond the scope of any blog or article, as it's an entire two-day seminar or book! You see, losses in mobility - the ability to reach a desired position or posture - can be caused by a number of issues - and usually a combination of several of them.  Tissues can actually lose sarcomeres and become short after immobilization or significant eccentric stress (as with the deceleration component of throwing).  They can become stiff because of inadequate stability at adjacent joints (learn more HERE), protective tension (e.g., "tight" hamstrings in someone with crazy anterior pelvic tilt), or neural tension from an injury (e.g., disc herniation causing "tight" hamstrings).

The "Short vs. Stiff" issue is why you need to have a variety of tools in your "mobility toolbox."  You need focal modalities like Active Release, Graston, and ASTYM techniques to assist with dealing with short tissues, whereas you need more diffuse modalities like traditional massage and foam rolling for dealing with stiffness (although both modalities can certainly help in the other regards, this is how I prefer to use them).

You need to understand retraining breathing appropriately and how posture affects respiratory function.  If you live in extension, you'll have a poor zone of apposition in which the diaphragm can function.  The average human takes over 20,000 breaths per day.  If you don't use your diaphragm properly, more of the stress is placed on the supplemental respiratory muscles: sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, pec major and minor, upper trapezius, and latissimus dorsi (to only name a few).  What are some insanely common sites of trigger points in just about everyone - especially thrower? Sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, pec major and minor, upper trapezius, and latissimus dorsi.  Improving respiratory function can be a complete game changer when it comes to enhancing mobility.  If you see a baseball player with a low right shoulder, prominent anterior left ribs, adducted right hip, huge anterior pelvic tilt, and limited right shoulder internal rotation, it's almost always a slam dunk.

(Check out www.PosturalRestoration.com for more details on this front)

You may need low-load, long-duration static stretches to improve length in tissues that have lost sarcomeres.  This research has been around in the post-surgery community for decades (1984 research example here), but it's actually not used all that much in strength and conditioning programs - presumably because of time constraints or the fact that most coaches simply don't know how well it can work in the right people.

Finally, as we noted in our Assess and Correct DVD set, you also need dynamic flexibility drills in your warm-ups to reduce tissue and joint stiffness, and subsequent strength exercises in your strength and conditioning program to create adequate stability at adjacent joints to "hold" that new range of motion in place.

Many physical therapist employ heat early in a session to decrease stiffness prior to strengthening exercises, too.  The point is that there may be many different ways to skin a cat - but there are also a lot different types and sizes of cat.  And, for the record, I don't condone skinning cats; it's just a really gruesome analogy that has somehow "stuck" in our normally very politically correct society. Weird...but let's move on.

2.Improving dynamic stabilization of the scapula - I say "dynamic stabilization" because you don't just want scapular stability; you want a scapula with appropriate tissue length, stiffness, and density to allow for the desired movement.  A scapula that doesn't move might be "stable," but that's not actually a good thing!

Truth be told, the scapular stabilizers generally fatigue before the rotator cuff does.  And, when the scapula isn't positioned appropriately, the rotator cuff is at a mechanical disadvantage, anyway.  Additionally, poor scapular control can present as an internal rotation deficit at the shoulder, as you'll just protract the shoulder excessively in place of internally rotating.  In other words, you can do all the rotator cuff exercises you want, but you don't increase strength of the periscapular muscles, you'll be spinning your wheels.  There are loads of drills that we use, but forearm wall slide variations are among our favorites:

3. Enhancing global strength while minimizing reactive training - As I've already noted in this series, we're certainly spending a lot of time addressing specific areas of weakness like the rotator cuff, scapular stabilizers, and anterior core. However, I should be very clear that we're still using "money" strength exercises like variations of the deadlift, single-leg exercises, squatting (in some of our guys), pull-ups, rows, push-ups, and dumbbell bench presses to get strong.  That said, the volume and intensity come down a ton on the reactive training side of things.  We'll give our guys a few weeks off altogether from sprinting, as they've usually done a lot of that all season.  Plus, nixing all the sprinting and jumping for a few weeks ensures that they won't tweak anything, given the soreness they'll be working with from the strength training program - and it allows us to increase strength faster.

4. Putting guys in the right footwear - One thing that many folks don't appreciate about playing baseball every day from February to October is the sheer amount of time one spends standing around in cleats, which will never be as comfortable as sneakers or going barefoot.  As such, one of the first things we do with most of our guys is get them into a good pair of minimalist shoes for training, as it gets them away from the rigidity, separation from the ground, and ankle mobility deficits that come with wearing cleats.  As I wrote previously, I'm a big fan of the New Balance Minimus.

Keep in mind that we ease guys into these minimalist shoe options, rather than throwing them in the footwear 24/7 right away.  They'll start out just wearing them during training, and increase from there, assuming all goes well.

5. Normalizing sleep schedules - Professional baseball players (and really all professional athletes) have terrible sleep schedules.  Because most games are night games, they generally go to bed around 1-2AM and wake up anywhere from 7AM to 11AM.  The early risers I know will usually take a nap before going to the park, whereas the guys who sleep in roll out of bed and go straight to the park.  Additionally, much of this sleeping comes on planes and buses, which aren't exactly comfortable places to get quality sleep.  I'm a firm believer that one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight - but this simply isn't an option for professional baseball players.

That said, we try to normalize things as much as possible in the off-season.  All our athletes are encouraged to try to go to bed and wake up at the same time - and to hit the hay before 11pm every night.  Any naps they can get during the day are a bonus, too!

Wrap-up

While I've outlined ten things we address in the early off-season, these are really just the tip of the iceberg, as every player is unique and needs an individual approach.  That said, the one general theme that applies to all of them is that we're shifting paradigms - meaning that some things about our philosophy may differ from what they've experienced.  Some guys may be accustomed to just "football workouts."  Others may have been coddled with foo-foo training programs where they didn't work hard.  Some guys ran distances. Some guys crushed the rotator cuffs every day while ignoring the rest of the body.

The point is that it's not just our job to find what we feel is the best fit for these athletes, but also to educate them on why the unique program we've designed for them is a better approach than they can get anywhere else.

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The New Balance Minimus: The Best Minimalist Training Shoe on the Market

I get asked all the time what sneaker I recommend for strength and conditioning.  While no shoe is perfect for everyone and all tasks, I’ve certainly grown to love the more “minimalist” options on the market today that simulate barefoot training.  In addition to strengthening the smaller muscles of the feet, barefoot training “accidentally” improves ankle mobility in athletes who have been stuck in restrictive shoes their entire lives.

That said, not all minimalist footwear options are created equal – and I can speak from experience, as I have tried out just about every version on the market today.

My use of old-school Converse All-Stars (“Chuck Taylors") could probably be considered my original “foray”into minimalist footwear, as I gravitated toward them because they were flat-soled and allowed me to better drive through my heels while squatting and deadlifting in powerlifting.  Unfortunately, they weren’t very comfortable, weren’t particularly aesthetically appealing, and I couldn’t really do much single-leg work or sprinting in them the way that I wanted to because they just felt restricting at the ankles (admittedly, I had the high-top version).  Plus, I always felt like people automatically lived in my parents' basement and played Dungeons and Dragons because I wore them.

From there, I went to the Nike Free back in 2006 – and was pretty impressed. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm tailed off quickly, as I beat these sneakers into the ground almost overnight.  The panels on the bottoms would fall off all the time when we pushed the sled (we find 3-4 new “pieces” of Free on the floor at CP every day).

And, the sneaker design actually seemed to “de-evolve,” as the upper and sides seemed to get stiffer while the heel lift increased (pictured below is the 7.0, and while the lower digit versions are a bit less stiff, there still seemed to be a general shift toward "normalcy" in terms of heel lift).

Looking for an alternative, I tried on a Reebok Travel Trainer (yes, only one) on in a store – and quickly returned it to the box before lacing up the other sneaker.  It felt so low in the back that I literally thought I’d come out of the shoe altogether if I tried to run – and this was a sentiment echoed by my wife, who owns a pair and has worn them a whopping one time for a training session…a mistake she’ll never make again, as they are buried in some closet with her 13,000 other pairs of shoes.  Using an excavating helmet and my Dora the Explorer flashlight, I managed to find them:

Then, earlier this year, an employee of Vibram Five Fingers kindly gave me a pair of their shoes to try out.  I really liked it for walking around the facility and training my bilateral lower-body lifts, but was not a fan of it for single-leg training, as it beat up my big toe on the trailing leg in lunges.  I'm also a heavy supinator, so it wasn't a good fit for me with sprinting.

However, I do love the material on the bottom, as it is one solid piece that couldn’t fall apart like the Frees do.  I also liked the pliability of the upper section; it had just the right amount of give.  That said, like most folks I’ve met who wear the Vibram Five Fingers, I could have done without the “Five Fingers” part, from an aesthetic standpoint. It's the absolute closest you can get to true barefoot training.

Luckily for me, though, the clouds opened up and I finally found a pair of minimalist sneakers that I love "all-around" when I got hooked up with a pair of the New Balance Minimus.  The new "training" shoe, which is pictured below, actually debuted in July of 2011, with more colors and styles added to the product line in the months that followed.  These bad boys are the real deal: durable bottoms, the same upper “feel” of the Five Fingers (they actually collaborated with Vibram on the trail version, which feels similar to the Five Fingers, minus the toes), and just enough protecting at the big toe to keep me from getting banged up on lunges.  There is also sufficient padding in the back to ensure that you don't slip out like one does with the Travel Trainer.  Tony and I each have a pair, as does the First Lady of Cressey Performance (for the record, Tony's are the pink ones):

I’ve used it for everything from sprinting, to jumping, to lifting and felt great.  I feel like an absolute rock star because I don’t have to change footwear halfway through a session in my strength and conditioning program, and while that may be a sad commentary on my life, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a damn good training show that I’ll be rocking for the foreseeable future.  It's also quickly become the single most popular training shoe on the floor at Cressey Performance on a given day, as many of the athletes have followed our lead and been thrilled with their purchases.

You can check out the different styles of Minimus at NewBalance.com.  I also liked this great interview on the research and development that went into creating the Minimus; it’s worth a read if you’re a geek like me.

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Barefoot Weight Training Guidelines

Q: I know that you're a bid advocate of including barefoot weight training in your strength and conditioning programs.  What in general is your "shoeless" policy with your athletes, if any? A: Yes, we use a lot of barefoot weight training around Cressey Performance in our strength training programs.  In addition to strengthening the smaller muscles of the feet, barefoot training "accidentally" improves ankle mobility in athletes who have been stuck in restrictive shoes their entire lives. Here are the exercises we're open to doing barefoot: All deadlift variations (rack pulls and DB variations included), box squats (hip dominant), and all any body weight mobility drills.

We don't go barefoot for any loaded single-leg movements (aside from 1-leg RDLs and 1-leg squats/pistols) or more quad-dominant squatting variations. All that said, we are careful about integrating barefoot drills in very overweight or very weak clients.  These individuals do not go barefoot for any of our dynamic flexibility warm-ups aside from in-place ankle mobilizations, as lunging variations can be a bit too much stress on them at first. We do, however, encourage clients (in most cases) to go with a good minimalist shoe. My personal favorite is the New Balance Minimus. Sign-up today for our FREE newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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