Home Posts tagged "Newsletters" (Page 10)

Gifts for Athletes

For the Aspiring Athlete

Call it shameless self-promotion, but it’s my newsletter! Publishing The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual was one of the highlights of the year for me – not just because it was my first publication, but because of the tremendous feedback I’m still receiving on a daily basis. The self-tests and 30 weeks of sample programming alone justify the investment; all the other information is just icing on the cake!

On a related note, I can’t say enough great things about Kelly Baggett’s Vertical Jump Development Bible. It belongs on every athlete’s bookshelf.

For the guys who don't consider "round" as being "in shape"

If you know someone who is looking to lean out in 2007, your two best resources are Afterburn and Turbulence Training. You won’t find two guys that know how to get folks lean better than Alwyn Cosgrove and Craig Ballantyne.

For the “Sponge”

Are you one of those people who just can’t get enough information about anything and everything that is training, nutrition, or supplementation-related? If so, the FitCast Insiders would be a great gift idea for you. Great interviews with some of the industry’s brightest minds on a variety of topics several times a month; what more could you ask for?

You’re watching, but are you listening and observing outside of your comfort zone?

Last week, Jeff Salzenstein (previous career high ranking of #100 in the world in tennis) was in town to work with us. On Thursday morning, Jeff and I sat down together and watched film for about 90 minutes. In that time, we watched some of the best in tennis history – Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Marcelo Rios, David Nalbadian – in slow motion to pick up on the little things that great, efficient athletes do. Additionally, Jeff and I discussed at-length the growth areas he perceived for his game and considered them in the context of the film I’d seen of him and his injury history. The intent was obviously to help Jeff get healthy and improve his game, I can honestly say that it was an eye-opening and extremely beneficial experience for me, too!

How often have you taken an athlete and just run him through an assessment in the confines of your facility, but never watched that athlete in his “normal” surroundings? And, how often have you really dug deep to get feedback from an athlete about his perceived weaknesses? Jeff is a high-motivation athlete who is always looking to educate himself, so he was primed for providing that feedback to me. If he had been a different personality type, though – and introvert, for instance – I would have missed out on a great opportunity to help him and grow as a coach at the same time. The take-home message from Jeff and my film session is that you obviously have to take into account what you see in your facility, but just as importantly, you need to “pry” with some athletes to figure out what about their performance concerns them; nobody is absolutely perfect, but you might as well be assuming that they are if you aren’t asking questions. And, you need to observe them “live” as often as possible. Thanks, Jeff. Until next week, train hard and have fun! All the Best, EC
Read more

Exclusive Interview: Jim “Smitty” Smith

We’re going to go in a few different directions with this newsletter.  It seems only fitting, as the holidays are a crazy time of year.  First, let’s get the ball rolling with an announcement…

EC in the UK

I’m in the process of putting the finishing touches on a trip to London for this spring; while there, I’ll be giving a one-day seminar.  For our UK readers who are interested in coming to the event (or the really overzealous EC groupies who would actually follow me from the States…couch, Mike Yuhaniak, cough), drop me an email at ec@ericcressey.com and we’ll notify you via email when the specifics are confirmed.

Additionally, it’s been confirmed that I’ll be presenting in Atlanta on January 13th and Washington, D.C. on February 24th – and there are more events in the works.  You can keep track of things by checking out my schedule.

An Interview with EC by Precision Nutrition

For those who missed it, last week, John Berardi and the Precision Nutrition crew tossed out some really cool holiday surprises.  The party got rolling with a free results tracker, and they followed it up with free interviews and comprehensive programs:

Monday: Body Transformation for Men, by Carter Schoffer

Tuesday: Program Design for Beginner Females, by Krista Scott-Dixon Wednesday: Bodybuilding, by Christian Thibaudeau Thursday: Athletic Preparation, by Eric Cressey Friday: Powerlifting, by Dave Tate

To say that I was honored to be included in this group would be an understatement.  You can check out my interview with Phil Caravaggio for the project at:


The comprehensive 12-week program – which piggybacks on the success of The Ultimate Off Season Training Manual – is available to all Precision Nutrition members.  If you’re not a member already, pick up a copy of Precision Nutrition today; it’s an incredible product, and you’ll automatically get all of the great programs outlined above  (plus the results tracker and some other sweet gifts JB still has in store).

Exclusive Interview: Jim “Smitty” Smith

I’ve been following the Diesel Crew guys for a few years, but it wasn’t until the past year or so that I had the opportunity to start interacting with Jim “Smitty” Smith regularly.  In the short time that I’ve known him, Smitty has really impressed me; he is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable and innovative guys in the “biz.”  The interview below is just a small sample of the tremendous amount Smitty has to offer; enjoy!

EC: Okay, Smitty, I know quite a bit about you, but that’s not to say that our readers can be sure that you’re not a complete poser.  Tell is about yourself.

JS:  I’ve been involved in strength training since 1995 and a strength coach since 2001.  I have gotten a few certifications over the years, but have most of my knowledge from years of self study, competing in sports and strongman competitions.

I co-founded the Diesel Crew, along with Jedd Johnson, in late 2001 and have been developing the Diesel Method since then.  We’ve been utilizing powerlifting, odd objects, kettlebells, weightlifting, and Grip strength protocols to build athletes to their greatest potential.

I believe we have a solid reputation for being innovators and hopefully provide strength coaches and fitness professionals with new ideas to improve their strength programs.

EC: You’re about as creative a person in this industry as I’ve met.  You’re like MacGyver; you could train a blind man with no arms and legs with just a book of matches, some Blue Heat, and a burrito.  How did you get so creative?  Do you sniff glue or something?

JS: What have you heard?  Let’s not talk about college.

Seriously, when people first see our products, I am sure they say to themselves, “Damn, I would have never thought of that exercise.”  I take a lot of pride in that.

When Jedd and I first started, we had no money and no equipment.  All we had was a great desire to succeed.  If we had an idea for an exercise, but we didn’t have the equipment, we had to make it or improvise.

For instance, in the EliteFTS Q&A Exercise Index, you’ll see one unique way to train atlas stones right in a commercial gym without atlas stones and even a cool way to train farmer’s walks without farmer’s walk implements.  These are just two quick examples.

But it is much more than being creative with equipment when you are poor.

If athletes or coaches are participating in or training with powerlifting components, they typically only use powerlifting techniques.  If people are utilizing odd objects in their training, they also typically only use these techniques and exercises.

But, we saw great potential benefit trying to combine techniques from each protocol into one system.  We called it the Diesel Method.

One example would be to take typical keg lifting (odd object) and perform beyond the range (powerlifting) bear hug good mornings.  This BTR hip extension has huge carryover for gluteal firing and neutral lumbar stability endurance.

EC: You and Jedd are the go-to guys when it comes to grip training.  What are the most common mistakes you’re seeing people make with their grip training?

JS: Grip training is not only about getting your hands stronger; it is also about preventing imbalances, training specificity (General, General Specific) for your sport and finally learning how to channel the power generated by your body through your hands.  The body works in integration and everything is connected.  Grip is typically the weakest link in this coordinated kinetic chain.  Strength programs focus on developing limit strength, rate of force development, power, speed, agility and so on – but we still must be able to express this strength through our hands to play any sport!  That is why Grip strength is so important.

For example, if you’re a boxer whose hands, wrists, and elbows are weak or beat up from tons of sparring, you are very quickly going to:

-  become injured from impact – cannot provide adequate contraction of musculature

-  become injured from too much tendon and soft tissue trauma - poor restoration

-  become limited in your ability to generate a powerful punch – poor neural expression

To determine how to implement Grip protocols into your training, check the Needs Analysis for the sport and go from there.

EC: I know you’re got a pretty good corrective training background; have you been able to apply some of this grip work in that capacity to prevent/rehabilitate injuries to the elbows, forearms, and wrists?

JS:  Eric, you know we need to create balance in our movements.  If we have balance in movements, improved soft-tissue quality, neural grooving of firing - then we’ll have proper functioning.  The same goes for Grip.

You used the example in your Sturdy Shoulder seminar of people who sit in flexion, type in flexion, watch TV in flexion, play video games in flexion all day long.  These people MUST do extension, mobility, and soft tissue work.

Similarly, a comprehensive grip protocol would include; flexion (fingers, wrists), extension (fingers, wrists), supination, pronation (radial/ulnar), ulnar / radial deviation (wrist), internal / external rotation (humerus), adduction / abduction (fingers) – everything from the fingertips to the shoulders.  Remember, everything is connected.

Now, once these movements, imbalances, and injuries have been addressed, we move to Level II, where we start to learn how to express power through the hands.  That is where irradiation or co-contraction comes into play.

The lower arm musculature is part of the whole kinetic chain.   You’ll immediately see this when you move into finger into extension against a rubber band or sand (bucket), and the musculature that crosses your elbow contracts.  Why is that?  Because we know that if a muscle crosses a joint it affects that joint.  That is why when you clench your fist as hard as you can, your forearm, biceps, triceps, deltoid, and lat contract as well.  That is how the kinetic chain works, and we can utilize this to our benefit in our training.

EC: Let’s talk about the Jim Smith library.  What are your top five resources?


1. All the standards:

-Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, by Baechle and Earle

-Supertraining, by Siff

-Science and Practice of Strength Training: 2nd Ed., by Zatsiorsky and Kraemer

-Designing Resistance Training Programs, by Kraemer and Fleck

2. The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, by Cressey

3. Starting Strength, by Rippletoe and Kilgore

4. Afterburn I & II, by Cosgrove

5. James Smith’s Manuals

6. The Coach's Strength Training Playbook, by Kenn

7. Chu’s Plyometric books

The list goes on and on.  Some I reread regularly, some I use as a reference.

I would recommend that your subscribers also do the following:

1. Print out articles and categorize them by topic: nutrition, periodization, sport, protocol, etc.  Now, take these articles and get a bunch of 3-ring binders and create a binder for each category.

2. Make a goal for yourself that each day you will: read one article, read one blog post, add one article to your binder(s), email someone on a question you have, start or create an article yourself.

3. With the idea of always trying to improve yourself, attend every seminar, clinic, and/or conference you can.  I’ve spent thousands this year in the never-ending pursuit of knowledge.

EC: Back when you interviewed me in June, you played the rapid-fire game with me.  Now, it’s my chance to turn the tables on you.  First thing that comes to mind when I say the following:

I dropped the loading pin curls on you at the Sturdy Shoulder seminar,

Here’s another one, though.

Kettlebell Radial Deviations

The neutral hand position and thick grip makes this one a great finisher – and gives you another option for your kettlebells.

AJ Roberts’ snoring habits:

Imagine this.  Set up a bed in the forest at the base of a giant Redwood.  Now, get rolling into a deep REM.  Next, have some lumberjack start cutting down that same tree that you are sleeping under with one of those 10-foot chainsaws, right next to your head.  Next, imagine that whole set-up inside of a closed 15’x15’ room.  Next, put that sound coming out of a hole approximately 3” in diameter (as you can imagine, the sound would be amplified.)

The funny part is actually me making bird calls and yelping noises trying to wake him up.

Mike Robertson:

One of the nicest guys out there.  I really appreciate his thoughtfulness toward others.  I also think that he has yet to show his true potential.  I can’t wait to see him provide the industry with more great products in 2007.

Todd Hamer:


EC: You’ve got a new manual: “Building the Ultimate MMA Athlete.”  Fill us in a bit on it.

JS:  I’ve been a huge MMA for years and coming from a wrestling background, I have been formulating ideas for years to put in this manual, specifically training the functional movement patterns for combat athletics.  It started as a small project and ended up being an eight-month project ending with a 300-page manual.

I have gotten an overwhelmingly great response to the book because it is not your standard deadlifts, pull-ups, and cleans type of manual.  Of course, those exercises form the foundation of the program and are in there, but I wanted to go above and beyond that standard school of thought.  I used every implement known to man and took the three functional positions; Standing/Clinch, the Guard, and the Mount, and built the programs and exercises around them.

My next manual, Chaos Training, is also going to open a lot of eyes and minds on what “functional” training really is.

EC: Cool stuff; thanks a ton for taking the time, Smitty.  How can our readers contact you?

JS: The best bet is to go through our websites;



Email: james.smith@dieselcrew.com

Thanks Eric!

Until next week, train hard and have fun!

All the Best,


Read more

Newsletter #34

Things are crazy busy up here in Boston, and I’m headed out Thursday night for a powerlifting meet up in Maine, so we’ll get right to it!

New Article

For those who missed it, I had an article published last week at T-Nation.  Check it out:

Lats: Not Just for Pulldowns

Exclusive Interview with….me!

Two weeks ago, Lyle MacDonald interviewed me for his newsletter at BodyRecomposition.com.  Enjoy!

LM: Hi Eric, thank for joining us. I know you probably get this question a lot, but I think my readers will be interested: in brief, what's your background in the field?

EC: I’ve been lucky to gather some perspective in a few different realms early-on.  In terms of “book smarts,” I’ve got a B.S. in Exercise Science and Sports and Fitness Management (double major) from the University of New England, and I went on to the University of Connecticut for my Master’s degree in Exercise Science.  I was lucky to work with and study under some of the world’s premier health and human performance researchers.  Additionally, I read a ton to this day, so in a way, I’ll never really leave academia.

In terms of practical applications, I’ve worked with athletes and ordinary weekend warriors at every level – youth sports, high school, collegiate, Olympic, and professional.  Heck, I even did a six-month internship in cardiac and pulmonary rehab.  I appreciate the variety, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t like the high-motivation athletes the best (and that’s independent of ability level).

Lastly, and perhaps most applicably, I’m always looking for ways to get better under the bar myself.  I compete as a powerlifter, and have trained in one of the best Division I weight rooms in the country for two years, South Side Gym (premier powerlifting gym) for one, and am now working and training out of Excel Sport and Fitness just outside of Boston, MA – where I get to interact with a great staff that feature people from a wide variety of athletic backgrounds.  There’s no better way to improve as a coach than to experiment yourself and see what works for you.

Right now, I’m really happy where life has taken me.  I’m close to family, living in a great city (I’m a big New England sports fan), and working out of a great facility with like-minded individuals who are among the best in the business.  I set my own schedule, and only train the people I want to train.  I can travel when I want – whether it’s to see another coach, consult for a college or pro team, or go to a seminar.

If readers are more interested in the “classic” bio stuff like articles I’ve written, seminars at which I’ve spoken, products I’ve released, and a discussion of my webbed feet, glass eye, and third nipple, they can check out my website’s ”About Eric” page.

LM: What are your personal athletic accomplishments? What about current goals?

EC: Believe it or not, I was all-state as a tennis and soccer player in high school.  I always joke with people that I took up powerlifting to convince everyone that I was actually tough.  Up until now, I’ve competed in the 165-pound weight-class and collected some state, national, and world records.  My competition bests are 540 squat, 402 bench, 628 deadlift, and 1532 total.  I won’t be able to make weight at 165 anymore, so 181 is the next step for me.  The next meet is December 2, and I’ve already deadlifted 635 and benched 420 in training.  We’ll see what happens…

I’m not sure that I’ll stay in powerlifting for the long-haul, as I still consider myself more of an athlete than a powerlifter.  I like being able to play recreation basketball and softball, and I’d like to vertical jump 40 inches down the road.  I’ll probably compete in some strongman, maybe even move to Canada and take up curling.  You never know.  I would like to pull 700 at 181 before I move on, though.

LM: In your own training past, what would you say was your worst mistake? Put differently, if you could go back and time and train more effectively, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

EC: I’d say that there would be two.

First would be the fact that for a long time, I was just “working out.”  As I mentioned, I’m an athlete at heart, so unless I’m preparing for something a bit more quantifiable, I’ll never feel like I’m training.  Powerlifting gave me that missing piece; there is nothing like training when you know you’ve got 12 weeks to go before you’re standing in front of hundreds of people with hundreds of pounds in your hands and veins popping out of your forehead!

As an added bonus to returning to the competitive landscape, it gave me a great frame of reference from which I could deal with athletes.  Athletes are brighter than you think, and if you don’t practice what you preach and can’t relate to them, they can and will call bulls**t on you (especially as you deal with some of the more advanced athletes who really don’t care what anyone thinks of them).

Second, and on a semi-related note, I worried too much about foo-foo bodybuilding crap early-on.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if 90% of the self-proclaimed internet gurus (read: guys who weigh 150 pounds and bench even less) wanted to make progress, they’d quit worrying so much about classic bodybuilding stuff and spend more time focusing on doing what it takes to add more pounds to the bar.  You can’t build a statue without a foundation, and the overwhelming majority of people on the internet haven’t built that foundation.  If I hear one more forum guy call a 315 deadlift “inspirational,” I’m going to burst out laughing (actually, I’ve already done that).  315 is only impressive if you’re a woman or an old man; otherwise, it ought to be speed weight.

Anyway, in a nutshell, the stronger I’ve gotten, the more happy I’ve become with my physique – and the easier it’s become to build muscle mass.  I swear: I’m not this cynical.  It’s just frame of reference and a little frustration over answering the same email inquiry 8,573 times!

LM: You and Mike Robertson recently produced a video called Magnificent Mobility that goes through a variety of dynamic warm-up exercises.  Since doing that DVD, what would you say has changed in terms of how you approach warmups for athletes? Any changes in movements, changes in approach, movements you no longer use for one reason or another?

EC: Well, Mike and I are always thinking up new stuff, so we’ve chatted about coming out with a sequel at some point.  We’ve got some new tricks up our sleeves.  I’d like to do more to address the spiral line fascial connection between the upper and lower body, spend a little more time talking about segmental mobility vs. stability on a joint-by-joint basis, and discuss how we incorporate soft tissue work into a good warm-up.

If I had to do it over again, I’d probably coach the hip abduction and rotation work a lot harder to ensure that people were getting it there without much (if any) motion at the lumbar spine.  That’s one area in which people tend to butcher this stuff.  So, in essence, I’d put some asterisks alongside the scorpions, yoga twists, and windmills.  Beyond that, though, I’m happy with what we have out there – and the feedback has been awesome.  It’s nice to see people who have almost “accidentally” eliminated pain from chronic injuries.

LM: There's zero doubt that the types of dynamic warm-ups described in that DVD are ideal for athletes, it's certainly an improvement from the old “Jog for 20 minutes and then static stretch” approach.  However, what do you think about such warm-ups for folks whose main goal is hypertrophy or body composition changes?  I guess what I'm asking is this: for the general trainee who may be doing an hour workout, is a 20-40 dynamic warm-up really necessary? Is there some way for them to shorten their warm-up and get the most bang for their buck out of a few movements?

EC: Well, for starters, our dynamic warm-ups almost never exceed ten minutes.  I have to admit that it kind of cracks me up that people have tried to pigeonhole me into the “Mobility Guy” role.  The truth of the matter is that mobility/activation work accounts for 5-10% of my programming at most (sometimes a bit more in people who really need it).  About eight movements – each lasting 30 seconds or so – is all you need.  Do some foam rolling beforehand, and you’ve got a complete warm-up 8-10 minutes.

Believe it or not, the average guy needs it even more than the serious athlete, as he’s not using his mobility work on a daily basis.  There’s a big difference between going to a desk at the beginning of your workday and going to the track to do tempo runs or the court to run lane agilities.

It might not directly lead to hypertrophy, but in the long run, it’ll keep you healthy.  Many elite athletes have credited much of their success to staying healthy for the duration of their careers, so why should an advanced bodybuilder be any different?  Lose your hip mobility, and you’ll see pulled hip flexors, hamstrings, and adductors; anterior/lateral knee pain; anterior hip pain; lower back pain – you name it.  It’s really just a matter of where people break down.

LM: Because the majority of articles on t-mag that you've written are rehab related, people have sort of shoehorned you as the 'rehab guy' with Mike Robertson but this is clearly far from all that you do. You recently wrote a book called "The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual" that deals with athletic training, please tell my readers

about it.

EC: You’re right; there’s another Cressey stereotype.  I really can’t win, can I?

Truthfully, I don’t see myself as a “rehab” guy; I’m not a physical therapist, manual therapist, or doctor of any sort.  “Rehab” is a reactive discipline, and I’m a proactive guy.  I’m looking for inefficiencies that may lead to problems down the road.  I might not be able to fix a torn labrum (well, if you sign a waiver form, I might be willing to get out the Swiss army knife, whiskey, and glue gun and give it a shot), but I can definitely spot the scapular dyskinesis that might have caused it.  Save the pathologies for the doctors and CDC; I’d rather prevent them from happening in the first place.  There’s obviously a gray area with all of this; just because 80% of Americans have lower back pain at some point doesn’t mean that we can send them all to physical therapy, so those of us who know corrective exercise well can pick up the slack.  I’ve had success with everyone from weekend warriors to Olympians on this front; some doctors just see the problem, not the cause.  But I digress…

The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual was something that took quite some time to pull together (right about a year) because I was constantly modifying little things based on what I was seeing work or not work.  It draws on experience working with athletes who have had incredible off-seasons, and on observing others that have wasted this crucial time of year.  I’m fortunate to have been involved in the basketball world extensively, and that’s the population in which off-season idiocy rears its ugly head the most.  So, in that regard, writing this book was a way to let off some steam – but get the word out on how to do things right.

I go into a lot of detail on the status quo, self-tests to determine training needs, individualization in programming and yearly periodization, and a whole lot more.  The manual concludes with 30 weeks of sample programming.  Those who have read my stuff know that I don’t write programs for the masses unless there is a ton of pre-assessment work done – and that’s the case with this manual.  Athletes and non-athletes alike have really enjoyed it thus far, as it makes you consider the practicality of the things going on around you in the world of training.

LM: I'd say that your article "Feel Better for 10 Bucks" may have been the one to really bring foam roller (self-myofascial release) work to the general public and you can find people using foam rollers (or at least discussing it) all the time now.  Coaches are throwing stacks of rollers out to their athletes for warm-ups and athletes are continually looking for harder implements to get even deeper into their tissues.  What do you think people are doing correctly with foam roller work?  Where are they going wrong?

EC: The two biggest mistakes I see are a) just going through the motions (doing it quickly instead of correctly) and b) rolling the lumbar spine.  You don’t want to roll at the lower back unless you’re someone with a lot of meat down there to protect the spine itself. Even then, it’s not really a good idea to encourage hyperextension, so I’d avoid it altogether.

As far as pushing too hard, I don’t think it’s too valid a concern.  There is only so much you can do with your body weight – regardless of whether you’re using a roller, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or whatever else.  Anyone who has ever had Graston or rolfing has had it a lot worse.  The secret is to remember that this is all progressive; you have to build up just like you would with anything else.

LM: As a follow-up to question 7, what about the application of foam rolling and self-myofascial release for the general trainee?  Does a bodybuilder or someone simply seeking general fitness need to worry about any of this stuff?

EC: Does a bear s**t in the woods?  It goes right alongside the mobility work; it might not make you bigger in the short-term, but it’ll extend your training career significantly, keep you healthy, and improve your quality of life.  If that won’t lead to better gains in muscle mass and general fitness, I don’t know what will.

LM: Shoulder injuries are arguably one of the most common to come out of weight rooms, especially in the bench press obsessed United States.  You're known as a shoulder guy (for good reason); is there any single thing that trainees should be doing to prevent shoulder problems from occurring in the weight room?

EC: A single thing?  Probably not.  In a nutshell, though, people can make tremendous progress by addressing the following things:

1. Proper structural balance in training

2. Considering what happens in the other 23 hours per day (e.g., poor posture)

3. Activation work for the lower traps and serratus anterior

4. Soft tissue and flexibility work for the pecs, lats, upper traps, and levator scapulae

5. Thoracic mobility in extension and rotation

6. Strengthen the rotator cuff

7. Mobility of the contralateral hip and ankle

8. Learning to lift properly (sadly, few people actually know how to bench correctly)

9. Realize that overhead pressing isn’t for everyone (and in fact, it’s probably wrong for about 2/3 of the population – especially as they get older)

10. Stop doing upright rows.

LM: You're quite prolific as an author (I highly recommend all of Eric's articles over on T-Nation, especially the “Neanderthal No More” series he did with Mike Robertson).  Where can readers find more of your stuff?

EC: The best bet is probably to go to the “Articles” page at my website; I keep it pretty up-to-date (although print magazine articles aren’t available online):


I also publish a free weekly newsletter on my site; readers can subscribe at http://ecressey.wpengine.com/freenewsletter.html.

Thanks for having me, Lyle!

That’ll do it for this week.  Until next Tuesday, train hard and have fun!

Read more

Great Ways to Stay Awake

For many of you, Thanksgiving probably conjures up images of pilgrims, squash, football, family, and, of course, turkey.  And, when you think of turkey, you’d have to be crazy to not also think about that afternoon slumber on the living room floor that everyone inevitably takes after eating a few pounds of it at the Thanksgiving table.

I haven’t been much of a traditionalist with this newsletter, and I won’t break from that trend this week and be like the “usual” fitness industry folks who preach moderation and implement scare tactics in hopes of scaring you away from the dinner table.  I’m a realist, folks; I know that you’re going to get plenty of bang for your buck this Thursday at the dinner table.  Fortunately for you, I’m also an optimist, so I figured I ought to at least frame the entire situation in a positive light: turkey-induced sleep is awesome because SLEEP in itself is awesome.  Save the leftover turkey and put it to good use.

Just a few days ago, the following “Cool Tip” by Dr. Lonnie Lowery was featured at T-Nation:

The Sleep Factor

Did you know that enough sleep deprivation in rodents causes death?  Or that there's a nearly linear relationship between hours of sleep and body mass index (a crude marker of obesity in non-athletes)?  Or, how about the fact that sleep debt contributes to carb intolerance and fat gain over time?  Of course, this is to say nothing of immune dysfunction, altered physical performance, and mental clarity. Lesson: Lack of sleep could be why your progress in the gym has stalled.

Great Ways to Stay Awake

Let’s face it: sometimes, you actually do have to stay awake – and it isn’t easy.  The commuters in the crowd can certainly relate to this problem, and nobody wants to nod off behind the wheel.  The solution?  Intellectual stimulation in place of monotony!

I recall Brian Tracy stating that the average American spends between 500 and 1,000 hours in the car each year.  If he listened to audio CDs or cassettes for this entire time, it would be the equivalent of full-time enrollment in a college.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my music and Boston Sports Talk Radio just like everyone else, but I’d say that a good 50% of the time that I’m in the car, I’m listening to something related to fitness or business.

Fortunately for you, with the holidays upon us, Kevin Larrabee has just introduced the FitCast Insider, a fantastic new resource that will suit your needs in this regard.  Each week, you can download interviews with some of the brightest minds in the industry – not to mention some goober named Cressey, who rambled on and on for 50 minutes on Saturday afternoon to Kevin’s delight.  Do yourself a favor and check it out now:

FitCast Insider

Guest Contributor: Maki Riddington

Okay, back to the sleep stuff!  The following article was originally featured at WannaBeBig.com, and when Maki sent it my way, I thought it would be perfect for this newsletter.  Enjoy!

The Art of Napping

By Maki Riddington


“A day without a nap is a day wasted”

There are many of us who are not people of the siesta, unlike some Latin Americans and Europeans who view 10-30 minutes of shut-eye in mid-afternoon as a worthwhile tradition. In Mexico and in Greece it's customary to close shop sometime after high noon so shopkeepers can count sheep. Not only is napping a practice in many countries, but some of the world’s most influential leaders have practiced this custom. While leading a victorious campaign during the Battle of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill took naps. His Italian enemy, Benito Mussolini, also napped, however, it is said to have cost him the war. Napoleon Bonaparte, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and John F. Kennedy have also have been in the ranks of notable nappers (all of them napping, of course, for the benefit of the nation). Seven-time Tour De France winner, Lance Armstrong, napped his way to the podium. His coach, Chris Carmichael says that these "naps were critical” in his overall training plan.

Despite a history of positive views of napping, many people today still frown upon this sleep tradition because most of the western world tends to associate napping with lethargy and non-productivity. However times are changing, and there is now a North American group called the World Nap Organization which proclaims itself as "the nap lobby —an unabashed special interest group devoted to battling negative images of the blissful practice of nap-taking."

The art of napping is staging a comeback. The evidence is mounting, and our day-to-day lifestyles are reinforcing the notion that napping does the body good.

If you’re a student, you’re usually up at the crack of dawn, ready to hit class and to get down to learning. You’ve made your meals for the day, head off to train, study, and then hit the sack. If a student is lucky they’ll usually get 6 hours of quality sleep a night. If you’re a college athlete, you’ll have mandatory practices, games, training sessions and course-work. For those of you in the work force who put in an 8-15 hour day, 5-6 days a week combined with several intense training sessions a each week ... well you get the idea ... sleep is a luxury.

For females, if it’s that time of month sleep can become compromised, usually for the duration of the menstruation. And, let’s not forget stay-at-home moms and dads (hey, it’s a liberated era) - sleepless nights from attending to a newborn. Did you know that this results in 400-750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year? Running the kids to soccer practice and ballet, cooking dinner, and house chores can take quite the toll on the body.

When it comes to making progress in the gym, people take into account their training, nutrition, and supplementation. They spend hours tweaking their routines, finding the right performance-boosting supplements, and making sure as they prepare and cook their meals that they are eating the right foods at the right time of day. Unfortunately, it’s the need for quantity and quality of sleep that is often overlooked in a trainee’s routine. Sleeping eight hours a day is not always enough and, even then, the quality may be poor.

The next time you’re in the local Barnes & Nobles or Chapters, browse through the “fitness” and “exercise” section. Notice how many books have been written on the topic of strength training, supplements, and nutrition. Then look at how many have been dedicated to getting a good night’s sleep, or talk about the quality of sleep and its effect on the body in relation to strength training.

If you’re lucky, you might find a chapter somewhere that touches briefly on the subject. The impact sleep has on overall health, body composition, performance, and recovery means that it should rank high on any list of strength-training priorities. It is also equally important that people realize why a nap can do the body good - even after a full 8 hours of sleep a night.

Did You Know?

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that:

The average adult sleeps under 7 hours a night during a workweek.

33% of adults surveyed sleep only 6 1/2 hours nightly.

40% of adults admit that the quality of their work suffers when they're sleepy.

68% say their ability to concentrate is diminished by sleepiness.

19% report making mistakes and errors due to sleepiness.

Sleepy drivers cause approximately 100,000 car crashes annually.

33% of adults surveyed would nap at work, if allowed.

Sleep can be defined as an anabolic state since it increases the process of growth and contributes to the restoration of the immune, nervous, and muscular systems. It is also responsible for maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills such as speech, memory, innovative, and flexible thinking. In other words, sleep is an essential part of life. The world record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days, set by Randy Gardner in 1965. It’s up there with all those other body-abusing milestones, such as denying the body food and water for long periods of time.

Sleep Overview

Those of us who live an active life should have a nap during mid afternoon. However, to appreciate why we need to include this nap in our daily routines requires a quick overview of the mechanism of sleep.

After a long day, it’s time for bed. You prepare your meals for the next day, gulp down your last protein shake or meal, and then the lights go out. But wait—there’s more to sleep then just closing your eyes and then pulling yourself out of bed the next morning.

There are 5 stages that the body goes through during a good night’s rest. The first stage of sleep, called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) contributes to the physical regeneration of the body. Although more info is needed, NREM has also been said to be responsible for the bolstering of the immune system. NREM is known as a transitional stage between waking and sleeping and lasts for approximately 5-10 minutes. During this period, breathing slows down, the heart rate decreases, the eyeballs start rolling and drowsiness occurs.

Moving into stage two of sleep, eye movements disappear, images start to pass through the mind, the muscles start to relax and the body starts to shut down.

In stage three, breathing becomes increasingly slower as does the heart rate. Stages three and four are usually grouped together. These two stages are referred to as “Delta Sleep” or “Slow Wave Sleep.” This stage is probably the most important stage for weight trainers as growth hormone (GH) is released (1,2,). GH is responsible for a number of things. Increased mental alertness, increased strength, increased feeling of wellbeing, decreased body fat and improved neurological function. The fifth and final stage of sleep is rapid eye movement (REM) otherwise known as “Dream Sleep”. During REM the brain is very active, dreams occur at this stage as well as paralysis of the muscles. Other characteristics are irregular breathing, increased heart rate, and rapid eye movements.

In total, the brain’s sleeping pattern repeats its cycle every 90-120 minutes. The brain will move from a light sleep, to a deep sleep then to a mentally active sleep and finally back to a light sleep. This cycle will repeat itself 2-7 times in young and middle-aged adults (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

Typical sleep cycle

Why Nap?

Even though we spend a third of our lives sleeping, scientists are still trying to learn exactly why people need sleep. In animal studies it has been shown that sleep is necessary for survival. For example, while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. In humans, those who had been deprived of just one night’s sleep were shown to have a reduction in mental exertion. In real life situations, the consequences of being sleep-deprived are grave. Some speculation has linked sleep-deprivation to certain international disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil-spill, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Challenger shuttle explosion.

Taking this into the gym can mean that the ability to concentrate and focus can become compromised which means less of an effort and intensity in the workout (9). Hopefully it’s not leg day.

Athletes who suffer from sleep-deprivation have been shown to see a decrease in cardiovascular performance (10), that is, their time to exhaustion is quicker. Sleep-deprivation in studies has been shown to occur around 30-72 hours. For an athlete who has a full course-load, studies, mid terms, and trains, sleep-deprivation can accumulate very rapidly.

Another study looked at cortisol and performance levels after staying up for an 8-hour period overnight. Performance declined and cortisol levels increased. For someone looking to pack on muscle and increase strength, this is bad news since the main focus is to minimize cortisol release since it is a catabolic hormone (11).

From a fat loss perspective, sleep deprivation can impair fat loss through a decrease in levels of the satiety hormone leptin, and increases in the hunger hormone ghrelin. According to Dr. Van Cauter a professor of medicine at the university of Chicago, “One of the first consequences of sleeplessness is appetite dysregulation.” “Essentially, the accelerator for hunger [ghrelin] is pushed and the brake for satiety [leptin] is released.” “The leptin levels are screaming ‘More food! More food!’” What this means is that the hormone leptin is responsible for telling the body when it is full. However, with decreased production of this hormone, the body will crave calories (especially in the form of carbs) even though its requirements have been met. For someone trying to diet, good luck!

Voluntarily sleeping less than 6 hours per night has been associated with an increased incidence of impaired glucose tolerance, according to a cohort analysis of the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (12) This may mean that a chronic lack of sleep can impair glucose tolerance, which can make body recomposition a difficult task. Most people have a hard enough time trying to regulate their carbohydrates and time them so that the body metabolizes them efficiently.

So, if you’re getting the required 8 hours of sleep, are you ok? Well, if this sleep is broken up, then its value decreases as the sleep cycle is interrupted. Deep sleep appears to be connected with the release of growth hormones in young adults. Many of the body's cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repairing bodily stress (muscle damage from strength training), uninterrupted deep sleep plays an important role in recovery and regeneration of the body.

Finally, adequate sleep and a properly functioning immune system are closely related. Sleep-deprivation compromises the immune system by altering the blood levels of specialized immune cells and important proteins called cytokines. These chemical messengers instruct other immune cells to go into action. As a result of being compromised, greater than normal chances of infections are likely to occur. And we all know that being sick can be a big setback both in and out of the gym.

The Benefits of Napping

Hopefully, you are beginning to understand why taking a nap just might be beneficial, if you aren’t already snoozing sometime during the day. The question that needs to be answered is: how long do I nap?

The Center for Applied Cognitive Studies states:

"Studies show that the length of sleep is not what causes us to be refreshed upon waking. The key factor is the number of complete sleep cycles we enjoy. Each sleep cycle contains five distinct phases, which exhibit different brain- wave patterns. For our purposes, it suffices to say that one sleep cycle lasts an average of 90 minutes: 65 minutes of normal, or non-REM (rapid eye movement), sleep; 20 minutes of REM sleep (in which we dream); and a final 5 minutes of non-REM sleep. The REM sleep phases are shorter during earlier cycles (less than 20 minutes) and longer during later ones (more than 20 minutes). If we were to sleep completely naturally, with no alarm clocks or other sleep disturbances, we would wake up, on the average, after a multiple of 90 minutes--for example, after 4 1/2 hours, 6 hours, 7 1/2 hours, or 9 hours, but not after 7 or 8 hours, which are not multiples of 90 minutes. In the period between cycles we are not actually sleeping: it is a sort of twilight zone from which, if we are not disturbed (by light, cold, a full bladder, noise), we move into another 90-minute cycle. A person who sleeps only four cycles (6 hours) will feel more rested than someone who has slept for 8 to 10 hours but who has not been allowed to complete any one cycle because of being awakened before it was completed.... "

Power naps can be defined as “brief periods of daytime sleep lasting an hour or less.” They should be directed at targeting sleep stages 1 and 2, and take place in the afternoon. Dr. Claudio Stampi's, aka Dr Sleep (one of the world’s foremost sleep researchers), found that afternoon siestas were full of slow-wave sleep. The main benefit that is derived from these stages is restoration from mental fatigue or an increase in alertness. During a 10-20 minute nap the brain cells reset their sodium & potassium ratios when the brain is in Theta state. This state of mind is associated with a flow of ideas or a positive mental state. The sodium & potassium levels are involved in osmosis, which is the chemical process that transports chemicals into and out of your brain cells. After an extended period in the Beta state (when the brain is aroused and actively engaged in mental activities, it generates beta waves) the ratio between potassium and sodium is out of balance. This is the main cause of what is known as "mental fatigue". A brief period in Theta (about 5 - 15 minutes) can restore the ratio to normal resulting in mental refreshment. Stampi says, "Sleep charges your battery more at the beginning of the sleep cycle than at the end."

Nap of Choice

The Nothing-Nap: This nap lasts a whopping 10 to 90 seconds. Studies are inconclusive as to the benefits of nodding off on someone’s shoulder while on the bus (13).

The Quickie Nap: 5 to 20 minutes of shut-eye can increase alertness and motor performance (14,15).

The 20 Minute Snoozer: This also allows for an increase in mental alertness and the increased performance of tasks (16).

The Deluxe Nap: If you can afford the time a 50 to 90 minute nap allows for muscle recovery to take place. This nap includes slow-wave plus REM sleep; which is when growth hormone is released.

The Caffeine Nap: Drink your favourite Starbucks caffeinated beverage and immediately take a 15-minute nap. Coffee helps clear your system of adenosine, a chemical that makes you sleepy. A combination of a cup of coffee with an immediate nap chaser provided the most alertness for the longest period of time (17).

Note: One of the side effects of snoozing occurs upon awakening. The feeling of grogginess that is often experienced here is called Sleep Inertia. Minimizing the time it takes your brain to get into sync can be accomplished by not waking up while you are in the Slow Wave Sleep stage.

If you don’t want your naps to interfere with your night-time sleep keep them under the 3 hour mark and make sure they are completed at least 3-4 hours before going to bed (18).


Taking a power nap provides more patience, less stress, increased learning, better health, better reaction time, more efficiency. Many athletes find a daytime nap further increases their body's ability to build muscle. Dr. Sara Mednick, a scientist at the Salk Institute for Biologicak Studies adds that “Napping also benefits heart functioning, hormonal maintenance, and cell repair.”

So stop feeling guilty and take a well-deserved nap at work or at home. Your Nattitude (nat´y-tood´)n.: a proud attitude about one's napping) should be displayed by laying your head down and grabbing some well-deserved shut-eye. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s past my naptime, and I’ve got to get setup for the rest of the day.

About The Author

Maki Riddington is the Editor for www.wannabebig.com and a Body Recomposition and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Richmond, British Columbia. He focuses on athletic and strength conditioning. For more info visit www.dynamicconditioning.ca


1. Born J, Fehm HL. The neuroendocrine recovery function of sleep. Noise Health. 2000;2(7):25-38.

2. Steiger A, Holsboer F. Neuropeptides and human sleep. Sleep. 1997 Nov;20(11):1038-52. Review.

3. Brezinova, V. Sleep cycle content and sleep cycle duration. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 36: 275-382, 1974.

4. Clausen, J, Sersen EA, and Lidsky A. Variability of sleep measures in normal subjects. Psychophysiology 114: 509-516, 1974.

5. Hartmann, E. The 90 minute sleep-dream cycle. Arch Gen Psychiatry 18: 280-286, 1968.

6. Kripke, DF. An ultradian biologic rhythm associated with perceptual deprivation and REM sleep. Psychosom Med 34: 221-234, 1972.

7. Merica, H, and Gaillard JM. Statistical description and evaluation of the interrelationships of standard sleep variables for normal subjects. Sleep 8: 261-273, 1985.

8. Sterman, MB, and Hoppenbrouwers T. The development of sleep-waking and rest activity patterns from fetus to adult in man. Brain Dev 31: 313-325, 1971.

9. Engle-Friedman M, et al. "The Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Next Day Effort." Sleep 1999; 22(1 Suppl): 151.

10. VanHelder T, Radomski MW. Sleep deprivation and the effect on exercise performance. Sports Med. 1989 Apr;7(4):235-47. Review. PMID: 2657963

11. Goh VH, Tong TY, Lim CL, Low EC, Lee LK. Effects of one night of sleep deprivation on hormone profiles and performance efficiency. Mil Med. 2001 May;166(5):427-31.

12. Gottlieb D, et al. Association of Sleep Time with Diabetes Mellitus and Impaired Glucose Tolerance. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165:863-868.

13. Tietzel AJ, Lack LC. The recuperative value of brief and ultra-brief naps on alertness and cognitive performance. J Sleep Res. 2002 Sep;11(3):213-8. PMID: 12220317

14. Brooks A, Lack L. A brief afternoon nap following nocturnal sleep restriction: which nap duration is most recuperative? Sleep. 2006 Jun 1;29(6):831-40. PMID: 16796222

15. Takahashi M, Nakata A, Haratani T, Ogawa Y, Arito H. Post-lunch nap as a worksite intervention to promote alertness on the job.Ergonomics. 2004 Jul 15;47(9):1003-13. PMID: 15204275

16. Hayashi M, Watanabe M, Hori T.The effects of a 20 min nap in the mid-afternoon on mood, performance and EEG activity. Clin Neurophysiol. 1999 Feb;110(2):272-9. PMID: 10210616

17. Hayashi M, Masuda A, Hori T. The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime nap. Clin Neurophysiol. 2003 Dec;114(12):2268-78. PMID: 14652086

18. Pilcher JJ, Michalowski KR, Carrigan RD. The prevalence of daytime napping and its relationship to nighttime sleep. Behav Med. 2001 Summer;27(2):71-6. PMID: 11763827

Now, shouldn’t you be napping?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Read more

Strength and Conditioning for Combat Sports

We’ve got lot of exciting stuff this week, so let’s get right to it.  So much content, but so little time…

Impressive Results with Magnificent Mobility

This week on the forums, I accidentally stumbled upon one man’s journal of his results over the past 6-8 weeks with Magnificent Mobility.  It’s pretty cool stuff; check it out!

Magnificent Mobility Journal

You can pick up a copy at www.MagnificentMobility.com.

Product Review: Tap Out: Strength and Conditioning for Combat Sports

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve got a ton of respect for mixed martial arts (MMA) competitors and wrestlers.  Whether you enjoy watching the sports or not (and I definitely enjoy them), you’ve got to give a ton of credit to guys for not only the guts it takes to compete, but also for the extensive training these sports mandate.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of guys out there who are spinning their wheels with the conditioning aspect of things, and they’re getting beaten like rented mules in competition as a result.  Fortunately for them (if they’re smart enough to know where to look), Jason Ferruggia came along and introduced Tap Out: Strength and Conditioning for Combat Sports.

Up until now, I’ve seen a bunch of products for grapplers, and to be honest, I haven’t seen one that has really impressed me.  Usually, they’re just a collection of exercises put together by some guy who used to wrestle or fight.  There are no guidelines.  There is no structure.  There is no systematic fluctuation of training stress.  There are no nutritional guidelines.  Very simply, there’s no system.

Now, if you were involved in a sport where you could potentially get knocked senseless, and you knew that training was crucial to your success, which avenue would you pursue?

Option A: A results-backed system, comprised of training, nutrition, and supplementation guidelines specific to the athlete, complemented by several information-packed bonus interviews with guys who have been successful MMA competitors in their own right.  It teaches you how to get stronger, faster, and leaner while avoiding injury and completely dominating your opponents.


Option B: Pictures of some dirty sweatpants-wearing, has-been wrestler showing you the same exercises his high school coach taught him back in 1984.  It teaches you how to be mediocre (at best) and, if you work really hard, how to get fat enough to protect your internal organs from the beatings you’ll take in the ring or on the mat because you didn’t train correctly.

Jason is Option A.  The guys following Option A are probably the ones who roughed you up last time around.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the testimonials, and while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Jason’s fantastic manual.

Exclusive Interview: Michael Stare

As you’ve probably already surmised by now, I’m always looking to meet new physical therapists who are effective at bridging the gap between healthy and injured athletes.  The sad truth is that just as there aren’t many trainers/coaches who really understand musculoskeletal dysfunction and the resulting pathology, there aren’t many PTs who really understand what an athlete puts his/her body through on a daily basis.

Let’s just say that I’m lucky to have found Mike Stare, and it’s just my luck that he’s right up the road from me here in Massachusetts.  Mike is a brilliant PT and trainer from whom you can expect to hear a lot more in the months and years to come; we’re already brainstorming on some projects together.  Here’s a small sample of the great information Mike has to offer; as I told Mike, I think it’s some of the best information we’ve had in any interview at EricCressey.com thus far.

EC: Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to join us today.  Before we get cracking with the interview, could you tell us a bit about who you are, where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going?

MS: I’m a Physical Therapist and a CSCS, practicing with Orthopaedics Plus in Beverly, MA, as well as Director of Spectrum Fitness Consulting, also in Beverly.

My early years as an oft injured and undersized athlete landed me in the orthopedists’ office far too often.  After a serious neck injury from football, I found myself in Physical Therapy for several weeks.  That experience really opened up my eyes and I decided that I wanted to pursue a career as a PT.

I studied kinesiology at the University of Illinois, and began working as a personal trainer for the division of campus recreation.  I also worked with the spinal cord athletes there, and had an opportunity to travel to the 1996 Paralympic games to work with spinal cord injured athletes.

I moved East to pursue a Masters of Science in Physical Therapy at Boston University. I continued to work as a personal trainer with the Boston Sports Clubs and obtained the CSCS while I was in grad school.  I also had the opportunity to help develop and teach a training curriculum for the trainers at BSC.

After graduation, I worked in an outpatient rehab hospital where I saw the full spectrum of conditions.  I treated a C5 quadriplegic who was more athletic the most people I know, a lady who had both legs amputated from her pelvis (best pair of arms on a 60 year old I ever saw and a heart of gold), bodybuilders with overuse injuries, chronic low back pain - you name it – I saw it.  It was a phenomenal learning experience, but I knew that I needed to focus in order to hone my expertise.  So I choose to concentrate on orthopedics, and jumped on board with Orthopaedics Plus.

I returned to graduate school part-time while working full time as a clinician to finish my Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and then completed a two-year fellowship in orthopaedic manual therapy.  That was an invaluable experience; I learned from what I truly believe to be the greatest minds in Physical Therapy.

I had moved away from personal training while pursuing my post-graduate studies, and I really missed it.  As a clinician, I grew frustrated with the fact that many of my patients were seeing me for injuries or conditions that could have been prevented if they had received the proper training or education.  I thought I was going to lose my mind if I saw another 16-year-old girl with excessive genu valgum and the glute strength of a mosquito limping in after ACL reconstruction waiting to get back to her three soccer leagues.

I decided that I needed to provide a service that would not only help people recover from their injury, but also reduce their injury risk and enhance their performance and health. As a result, in partnership with Orthopaedics Plus, I formed Spectrum Fitness Consulting this past January.  We focus on providing personal training services, as well as sports conditioning for young athletes.  Our studio is located adjacent to the PT clinic, which facilitates me working as both a clinician and a trainer.

We are rapidly growing and have some excellent new programs coming soon.  I’m looking forward to finding some quality trainers to help us grow, as well as expanding our reach throughout the North Shore region, developing more of a web presence, and hopefully perform some research in the near future

For now, I’m trying to stay focused on getting things done right, keep my head from spinning off, and enjoy hanging out with my new baby and my wife as often as possible.

EC: The first chapter of your memoirs is now officially complete; congratulations!  Moving on…you’ve done quite a bit of research on preventing elbow injuries in young pitchers; what have you got for us?

MS: Last fall I had the opportunity to mentor a Doctoral Student from BU.  We found some great info about elbow and shoulder injuries in young baseball pitchers. Among some of the most notable findings:

·         Injuries in young pitchers most often involve the growth plates, as opposed to the rotator cuff, labrum, or ligaments commonly seen in adults

·         The growth plates are the weakest link in the joint complex in young pitchers.

·         Growth plates in the elbow are open until about 16 and until 19-22 in the shoulder.

·         Injury to the growth plate is very difficult to detect, except in severe cases. Thus, early and appropriate response to pain is critical.

·         Pitch counts and pitch types are associated with risk of elbow and shoulder injury. Researchers from the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) have given specific recommendations for pitch type and count based on their findings.  For example, a sample of 476 9-14 year olds who threw curve balls had a 56% increased risk for shoulder pain and those who threw sliders had an 86% increased risk for elbow pain.  A sample of 330 9-12 year olds showed increased incidence of elbow and shoulder injury occurred with:

1) Those who threw >75 pitches/game or 600/season

2) Pitched in multiple leagues

3) Experienced arm pain during the season

4) Pitched less than 300 pitches per season.

EC: Very interesting; we often hear about throwing too much as being a problem, but some kids were actually having problems from not throwing enough pitches and then going out to “turn it loose?”  In other words, is that 300-600 pitches/season number precedent for a “golden pitch count rule?”

MS: No, I don’t consider it as a golden rule.  Rather, it should provide a basis from which coaches, clinicians, and researchers can begin to establish the boundaries between what is too much stimulus for a developing arm, and what is not enough stimulus to facilitate enhanced motor skill and optimal conditioning.

The research from ASMI and others is merely revealing initial data about factors that correlate with shoulder and elbow injury, not cause the injuries.  Pitch counts are a convenient way to quantify arm stress, but they are far from perfect.  The research regarding this topic is still very new and continues to evolve.  Pitch counts are just one of the many factors related to increased risk.

I think focusing on a firm pitch count for the season may be a problem in that it relieves the coaches, parents, etc., of responsibility of considering other variables that may also indicate increased risk, essentially, providing a false sense of security.

It still isn’t clear why pitching less than 300/season was associated with risk of arm injuries.  Perhaps those who threw less had less skill, and thus imposed greater stress upon their arms.  Maybe they were less conditioned.  Or perhaps, as you mentioned, they progressed their volume of throwing too quickly.  The higher risk with throwing greater than 600 seems more obvious – perhaps it was just too much?

Regardless, I think the problem is not simply about too many pitches or too few pitches in games over the season.  There seems to be a trend towards kids playing in less informal settings, and more often in competitive settings.  This has some significant implications.  Less informal play means less opportunity for honing the motor skill of throwing.  Motor learning is best developed by practicing frequently, in small chunks of time, at initially lower intensities.  This is what is typically done through informal play.

There is a big difference between how you throw in a competitive game situation versus while practicing or playing catch with friends.  Thus, kids are in more frequent situations that place higher stresses on the arm, while spending less time improving their motor skills.  Given this trend, I think it becomes clear why the incidence of arm injuries is one the rise.

Improving their conditioning and responding to the early warning signs of injury would substantially offset this higher risk.  Combined with coaches focusing more on teaching the skill of throwing, while gradually increasing the volume and intensity of throwing, the incidence of arm injuries could be greatly reduced.  Rather than just focusing on the pitch count, I suggest coaches and parents also simply rate velocity and control each inning, as well as observe any other signs of a change in mechanics or taking more time between pitches.  This will be more effective than just quantifying pitch count.

EC: Great stuff – sorry to interrupt.  What else have you got?


·         Certain flaws in pitching mechanics will predispose the shoulder or elbow to greater stress. For example, excessive shoulder rotation at initial contact of the stride leg, and a more cross body horizontal arm follow-through leads to increased torque on the elbow.

·         The humerus rotates up to 7000 degrees per second in from late cocking phase to acceleration phase, and the arm experiences a distraction force of up to 1.5 the athlete’s bodyweight during the deceleration phase

·         Clinicians and surgeons are reporting a 5-6 fold increase in pitching related elbow and shoulder injuries in youth pitchers.

I’ve seen too many kids devastated by realizing that their throwing careers are over at age 15, recovering from their second arm surgery. There’s too much information out there; we need to apply it.

EC: Agreed!  So why aren’t more trainers and coaches putting this information into practice?

MS: Although we found some great info about kinematics, kinetics, and epidemiology, there was very little information about conditioning or training strategies. It was implied by almost every researcher, but never thoroughly discussed. That is were my “Young Guns” program comes in.  Our program will be the only that I’m aware of that will emphasize not only the preventative strategies via pitch count, pitch type, and throwing mechanic alterations, but also implement specific conditioning strategies.  As with so many other conditions, the ability to generate and translate force through out the entire kinetic chain, as well as efficiently decelerate, correlates with improved performance and reduced injury.  I think this reasoning applies perfectly to throwing athletes, and they should be trained accordingly.

EC: Great stuff; I’m sure it’ll be fantastic.  How about correcting injuries once they’re in place?  Any rehab tips for those who already have bum elbows?

MS: The injured tissue must be identified first. This is especially important for young athletes, as growth plates are particularly vulnerable.  Treating a growth plate injury will be much different than treating a lateral epicondylopathy.  Seeing an orthopedist who specializes in elbows and shoulders – together with a PT with a manual therapy background – is your best bet.

Next, identify the cause of the problem. It’s always easier to investigate a crime closest to when it was committed.  The irritating factors must be modified or avoided.

Look at the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips for mobility deficits.  Inadequate mobility at any of the joints along the kinetic chain can result in greater compensatory mobility demands upon the more vulnerable elbow joint, leading to excessive strain and ultimately injury.

If soft tissues of the elbow are involved, such as is the case with tendonopathy of the common extensor (lateral epicondylopathy) or common flexor (medial epicondylopathy) tendons, deep tissue massage is very effective.  It doesn’t feel so good initially, but it works.  Usually, you can do it yourself; just follow the tendons starting about ½ inch from the origin, and deeply massage with small amplitude parallel and perpendicular to the tendons.

Joint mobilization is also very effective at restoring normal mobility and promoting joint healing – but you’ll need a skilled therapist for that.

For less acute injuries, very high repetition, low load exercise can be effective at improving tensile qualities and promoting healing.

The common practice of applying ice shouldn’t be overlooked.  Ice massage is very easy and effective.  Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the edges, and rub the effected area for about 5-10 minutes.

EC: My favorite part is that you never recommended non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  We know we’re dealing with degenerative, not inflammatory conditions, so these interventions have little merit aside of pain relief, which is better accomplished with ice anyway.  All those NSAIDs are just inhibiting the healing process and giving people a false sense of good health, leading them to throw the tissue back into the fire much too soon.  Would you agree?  (You’re not allowed to disagree, for the record; this is my newsletter!)

MS: I absolutely agree, and not just because I fear being chastised like your friend Hugo from a few newsletters ago!  Soft tissue injuries have often been labeled as tendonitis, the –itis suffix inferring an inflammatory pathology.  However, histological studies consistently fail to find markers indicative of inflammation with these conditions, leading to the increasing use of the appropriate term tendonopathy instead.

This is more than a semantics issue.  As you mention, taking an anti-inflammatory to treat something that does not have an inflammatory pathology may yield unnecessary risks and hinder healing.  Recent research has demonstrated impaired bone healing in conjunction with NSAID usage.  This is particularly important if bone pathology is suspected, as often is the case with young pitchers having a high incidence of growth plate injuries

EC: This has been fantastic stuff, Mike; thanks for taking the time.  Where can our readers find out more about you?

MS: It’s my pleasure Eric, anytime. I can be reached at mike@spectrumfit.net, and your readers can learn more about Spectrum Fitness Consulting, the Young Guns program, and myself at www.spectrumfit.net.

That’ll do it for this week, everyone.  Keep an eye out for some exciting news in the next few days…

All the Best,

EC Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Read more

Newsletter #31

We’re back at it with another update at EricCressey.com.  Now that my traveling is essentially done for 2006, I can buckle down and get cracking on some writing projects that have been back-burnered for longer than anticipated.  Let’s get this week’s newsletter started with some great (and impressive) news:

Congratulations, AJ Roberts!

I wanted to send out a quick congratulations to my good friend AJ Roberts, who won the 308-pound weight class at the WPC event at Lake George, NY.  AJ squatted 880, benched 700, and deadlifted 705.  What’s perhaps more impressive is that AJ did all this after pulling his hamstrings three weeks ago; he actually had a lot more in him!  Nice work, buddy. Also, a huge congratulations goes out to Andy Bolton for becoming the first man in history to deadlift more than 1,000 pounds.  I’ve never met Andy, but it goes without saying that I’m a bit of a deadlift-aholic, so this was very cool news for me.  For those who haven’t seen the video yet, check it out: 1,003 Deadlift.

For those who missed it…

I neglected to mention that I had a new article published at T-Nation last week; check out The Truth About Leg Extensions. Tip of the Week:  Check the opposite hip and ankle whenever you see shoulder problems. When we're discussing functional anatomy, one thing that a ton of people overlook is the effect of fascia on how we move.  Anatomy charts are always nice and neat for us, but anyone who has ever taken gross anatomy or watched a surgery will tell you that there is fascia EVERYWHERE.  This connective tissue both facilitates and restricts movement, and as is the case with muscles, fascial restrictions (adhesions) can negatively affect how we perform. A common example of this phenomenon that might surprise you involves the spiral line, a fascial "train" Thomas Myers brought to light in his fantastic book, Anatomy Trains.  Essentially, the spiral line links one shoulder girdle to the opposite leg.  If you have restrictions in the spiral line, both "ends" of the train will be negatively affected.  This is one reason why I almost always see poor flexibility in the opposite ankle and hip in anyone who has a shoulder problem that involves tightness of some sort in the shoulder girdle. Additionally, we know that via the "serape effect," the latissimus dorsi works intimately with the opposite gluteus maximus during the sprinting motion.  The only way that this "link" is possibly is through the thoracolumbar fascia, a dense section of connective tissue that helps to transfer force.

So what are the take-home points?

1. Don't overlook the importance of soft-tissue work!  It's tough to stretch fascia, but modalities like foam rolling, massage, and ART can make a huge difference. 2. Injuries never occur in isolation; as the shoulder-hip-ankle connection verifies, we need to look at the body as a whole. 3. If you spot poor shoulder mobility on one side, as part of your corrective exercise approach, incorporate plenty of mobility exercises and soft-tissue work for the opposite ankle and hip. The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual: why isn't it on your bookshelf? The title says it all, but here's a testimonial I received this morning from Matt McGorry, an up-and-coming lifter and coach who is already way ahead of most 20 year-olds in this industry: "I just finished reading the manual...this is some great work!  For any coach or athlete out there, this book is a must-have.  It puts together all of the different training periods throughout the year, teaching the reader how to develop various qualities at the appropriate times. "The manual really fills in the gaps for those who may have a general knowledge of exercise technique and loading parameters and provides a general frameork of how the metabolic and neural conditioning of an athlete should fit in with their technique perfection and maintenance. "Thanks again, Eric.  I'll be referencing this for quite a while." Matt McGorry New York, NY For more information on the manual, head over to www.UltimateOffSeason.com.  And, to see some more discussion of the manual, check out this thread at T-Nation.

Exclusive Interview: Ryan Lee

It’ll probably come as a surprise to a lot of you, but believe it or not, when I first entered college, I was convinced that I was destined to become an accountant (like four other members of my family).  Heck, I didn’t even take a science course my senior year in high school because I was so dead-set on my plans to go to business school.  Long story short, I spent the first two years of my undergraduate career at Babson College, which has been ranked as the #1 Entrepreneurial school in the country for a lot longer than I’ve been alive.  Anyway, long story short, sometime during my sophomore year, I realized that I was more interested in counting plates on the bar than I was in crunching numbers and staring at the ticker, so I transferred to pursue a career in sports management and exercise science.  And, several years later, here I am writing this newsletter. However, more applicable to the interview at hand is the fact that in spite of my two years at business school and the fact that one-half of my double major as an undergraduate was sports management, the sad truth was that I was woefully unprepared for the business side of the fitness industry.  In school, they teach us all about glycolysis, the sliding filament theory, runner’s diarrhea, and a bunch of other stuff that’ll will never come up in conversation with an athlete, client, or potential client (actually, I have had that runner’s diarrhea chat with some endurance training clients before, but that’s a whole other crappy newsletter). So we have all this knowledge, but at what point along the line are we ever taught how to build and maintain a clientele, manage our income, work efficiently, and develop other revenue streams in order to advance as fitness professionals?  If you’re a trainer, ask yourself, “Is the only way that I can make more money or expand my influence is to work longer hours?”  The sad truth is that the answer is “yes” for a lot of fitness professionals – and I’ll admit that I was on the fast track to becoming one of them – until I looked into Ryan Lee’s products.  Ryan has helped countless fitness professionals – myself included – develop their careers so that they can enjoy life more while becoming more educated trainers and coaches.  If you’re a fitness professional who hasn’t checked out Ryan’s stuff yet, you’re missing out on investments that will pay for themselves hundreds of times over.  This week, we’ve got an interview with Ryan that I think will turn a lot of heads and set the record straight on a lot of things. EC: Hi Ryan; thanks for taking the time to be with us today.  Let’s get the ball rolling with an introduction to those of you who aren’t already familiar with your work.  The floor is yours: how did you get in to the business aspect of fitness? RL: It was really by accident.  As my personal training business and my online fitness companies became quite successful, I started to receive more and more emails from my fellow fitness professionals about how they could duplicate my successes.  I’ve always known that studying the “business” of fitness is vitally important if you want to have a long-lasting career in this industry. I’ve heard others say “if you’re a good trainer, you will make money,” and that’s simply NOT true.  It might have been true 15 years ago when there weren’t as many personal trainers, but with the ever-growing competition, in addition to your training skills (which are a MUST) you also have to become smarter with your marketing.  I know many good trainers who had to leave the industry because they didn’t have enough clients to support their family. I am just as passionate about business as I am about training.  So, it was just natural that I spin-off and teach other fitness professionals how to build a successful long-lasting career in the industry. EC: Let’s talk a bit about what it is you do.  What does the average personal trainer have to learn from Ryan Lee? RL: In regards to the “business” of training, my unique area of expertise is teaching them how to transform from a personal trainer into a successful fitness entrepreneur.  I show them that being a “trainer” is just one component of your fitness empire.  There are so many other ways to help more clients reach their goals than just one-on-one training. I teach them about how to leverage their time, how to create additional passive revenue streams, how to market online, and how to create information products like DVDs, manuals, and more.  Most of the information is available to them through my websites and products.  For instance, Personal Trainer University is an online resource where fitness professionals gather to brainstorm and learn from each other and several experts on how to expand their “empires.”  Additionally, my Sports Training Profits resource teaches fitness professionals how to be profitable and efficient in the implementation of programs with a wide variety of athletes.  And, the Fitness Info Products CD collection educates fitness professionals on how to create, publicize, and sell products to generate passive income and spread their influence. Note from EC: Fitness Info Products is an insanely good product if you’re serious about becoming a profitable trainer.  It dramatically helped my career. EC: It goes without saying that once you put your name out as a writer on the internet, you’re going to have your fans and your critics – and some of your critics are pretty relentless.  What’s the deal with these people?  Why do they have such a problem with what you do? RL: That’s the toughest part to deal with.  I teach my clients that you must have tough skin when dealing with critics and you cannot take it personally.  I am quite sensitive, but I’ve learned to just focus on the positive people that want my help. It’s really sad that some of these fitness professionals have nothing better to do than focus on me or other successful professionals.  They live in a world of scarcity.  They think there’s a limited amount of clients – when in actuality, we live in a world of abundance.  There is SO MUCH for EVERYONE – but they feel boxed in. There are also those who are jealous when their peers become successful.  They’re the same people who use terms such as “filthy sticking rich” and the ones who see a guy driving a Porsche and call him a jerk even though they don’t know him.  They’d rather knock people down to make themselves feel better. I’m often misunderstood and misquoted.  Anyone who has studied under me knows the very first thing I always say is that you MUST be good at training.  Without good, solid information that delivers results, everything will tumble like a deck of cards.  I tell them if they’re in it just for the money and want to put out crappy products, please don’t use my system.  Putting out crappy products serves no one any good: you can hurt your clients – and eventually the market will know it is poor information and that same market will also put you out of business. Anyone who says that I want every trainer, good or bad, to create products has not listened to me.  All you have to do is ask any of my clients and they’ll tell you the same thing.  You MUST master your craft first! I also find it interesting when someone says my information doesn’t work.  I would estimate that 99% of these critics have never actually purchased one of my programs.  I’ve sold thousands of my success programs, and it’s the same program that has helped guys like Alwyn Cosgrove and you do really well.  If a skilled trainer follows my advice, I guarantee they will get results – just as you have Eric! EC: Can’t argue with that.  Maybe I’ll trade in my Huffy bike for a Porsche one of these days!  On a related note, everyone likes success stories.  Obviously, you’ve got yourself – and I’ve certainly grown immeasurably as a businessman since I started with your stuff – but let’s hear a few more.  What can trainers expect to see in terms of returns when they really “get it?” RL: I have literally over 1,000 success stories from fitness professionals I’ve helped over the years.  It’s amazing how much you can achieve when you have the “greater good” in mind and take action.  Here are some recent success stories… Alwyn Cosgrove: He’s always been a great trainer, but he didn’t know how to package his information into products.  Now he earns a lot more in passive income helping tens of thousands of people without having to train all day.  In fact, when he was battling cancer, he was able to not train for over six months because of his passive revenue streams. Brian Grasso: Brian has taken his passion for youth athletics and create the IYCA (International Youth Conditioning Association).  This association has built relationships worldwide with coaching associations and has hundreds of trainers certified.  They’ll soon open a chain of facilities that will impact millions of kids. Susan Hill: Susan started a website that now has over 10,000 members – each paying $200 a year (that’s over $2 million in revenue).  Hired by Michelle Wie’s swing coach to run fitness programs at his academy for elite junior golfers, Susan received over $25 million dollars worth of exposure on television, and gave presentation to the world’s top golfers and coaches in Bogota, Columbia – and all of this in less than one year. Joe Martin: Joe opened a sports performance training facility in Upstate NY, landed his own local television show, “TheraPTv,” and secured a contract with Radisson setting up Gym Suites in their hotel.  And, the amazing thing is he did this all within one year. Pat Rigsby: Pat has generated a personal training client base in two locations totaling over 500 (in Kentucky) and a member base of over 1,000 in our 5,700 sq. ft. health club that just celebrated its first anniversary.  Additionally, he created five information products that have generated over $100,000 in sales and helped hundreds of fitness professionals. David Whitley: In one year, Dave created his first DVD, started a CD of the month project, and conducted local bootcamps and kettlebell workshops across the country. As of August 31st, 2006, he had already earned about 25% more than he did for the entire year of 2005. Again, I have over 1,000 more stories just like these.  I have provided the information and tools to help them, but they’ve all taken action on my strategies and achieved great successes. EC: Very impressive.  Let’s talk about things trainers can do TODAY to start improving themselves.  I know I’ve got hundreds of ideas that I’ve applied with great success to get to where I am at age 25, but as Alwyn Cosgrove has said, “Ryan Lee is the master!”  What are a few ideas to get the ball rolling? RL: The first thing is to change your mindset.  Believe it or not, this is the hardest thing for most trainers.  You have to know it’s okay to make money.  Just because you make a lot of money does not mean other people are going to suffer.  And whatever you do, stay away from the negative people and influences in your life.  If you work in a gym where all the other trainers do is complain, then get away from them or go find another gym.  And, go buy the DVD called The Secret – it’s powerful stuff! Next, figure out what your true passion is.  Determine your ideal client and find a niche in which you would like to specialize.  With all the increased competition in the fitness industry, it’s tougher to succeed as a “general” personal trainer.  If you love training soccer players, then go hard into that niche, learn everything you can, train as many soccer players as you can, and be the best damn soccer trainer in the world!  It’s all about “micro-niching.” Once you find your niche, create an action plan.  I like to have my students start with the end in mind.  If your goal is $100,000 a year, start from there and work backwards.  That comes to about $333 a day (working 300 days a year).  Now figure out how to can generate $333 a day.  Maybe it’s doing a bootcamp in the morning, a semi-private in the afternoon, and spend the rest of the day marketing online to sell two of your DVDs. If you don’t have a specific financial goal, then it’s hard to know where to begin; it’s just like training.  If you train a client, your client has a goal; that’s probably the first thing you ask them.  Maybe it’s to lose 15 pounds or squat 400 pounds. The point is, once the goal is set, then a plan is created to reach that goal.  It’s the same with your fitness business.  Write down your financial goal and make it specific.  Most trainers simply work all year and see what they have left over at the end. Then, look for ways to leverage your time.  Create a website, and look into creating products such as DVDs and manuals so you can help thousands of clients use your system.  Explore switching from one-on-one training to semi-private and small groups. EC: Where do you see the fitness industry – including in-person training, online consulting, and information products – going in the years to come? RL: I see more and more trainers making the switch from personal trainers to full-fledged fitness entrepreneurs.  More of these entrepreneurs will create their own information products – but only the best will begin to rise to the top. I see less one-on-one training and more semi-private and group training program led by personal trainers. I see the larger “discount” clubs like Planet Fitness radically changing the face of health clubs.  More mid-size clubs will have to adapt and go after either niche markets or add more services to reach the higher income clients. I see more people getting away from calling themselves “personal trainers,” instead opting for a more relevant term like “fitness coach.”  I see these fitness coaches offering more services and packages such as “two in-person sessions a week, one phone coaching session, and online training.” I see a couple of larger companies coming in and buying out some of the smaller online training sites – which will lead to lots of shake-up and consolidation. I see more and more people getting fit because of the increased competition in the fitness industry (which is healthy!).  After all, the reason why we all come into the fitness industry is to help people! EC: Well said, Ryan.  Interesting stuff; thank for taking the time.  Where can our readers find out more about you? RL: My pleasure Eric! I enjoy doing interviews and getting the word out to more fitness professionals about the imortance of being “business-savvy.” Readers can find out more about the different things I do at my homepage: RyanLee.com.  If they want to learn more about my systems, I uploaded over 2 hours of seminars that teach fitness professionals add to double their income. They can listen to it for FREE at this special link: http://ryanlee.com/freetips.htm. That'll do it for this week.  We'll be back next week with all new content; have a great week, everyone! EC
Read more

Exclusive Interview: Nick Grantham

The Sturdy Shoulder Seminar Report

I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who made the trip out for last weekend’s Sturdy Shoulder Seminar at Excel Sport and Fitness Training.  In spite of the lousy weather, we had just over 60 people in attendance.  The feedback has been great, and it looks like there will be a few articles written in the next few weeks to recap the event; I’ll keep you posted.

A Review of Magnificent Mobility

For those of you who haven't picked up a copy of our Magnificent Mobility DVD yet, check out this review from FightersReview.com.  You can pick up a copy at www.MagnificentMobility.com.

Remembering a Legend

I know this is predominantly considered a fitness newsletter, but I think I’d be doing a great disservice to my upbringing if I didn’t take a quick moment to bring attention to the passing of Red Auerbach, the long-time patriarch of the Boston Celtics franchise. Growing up, the Boston Celtics meant everything to me.  Back in the Bird/Parrish/McHale/Ainge/DJ days, I used to practically cry myself to sleep every time they lost.  I remember jumping around my living room throwing punches when an undersized Jerry Sichting unloaded on big Ralph Sampson during the 1986 NBA Finals (I was five years old).  I'm convinced that the fact that I was born in 1981 - the year of the first Celtics championship in the 1980s - was some sort of omen.  Each year, my father took my brother and I to the old Boston Garden for one game – and it was the highlight of our years.  While I was never a stud basketball player myself, I can say without wavering that this early passion for high-level basketball was what led me to a career where I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best college and professional players in the world.  It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible if Red Auerbach hadn’t made the Celtics what they were. With all that said, even if you’re just a casual sports fan, I’d encourage you all to check out Bill Simmons’ column at ESPN.com this week; it’s well worth the read.

On a Brighter Note…Exclusive Interview: Nick Grantham

I first came across Nick Grantham’s name in some of Alwyn Cosgrove’s writings, and I know that Alwyn isn’t one to lavish praise on anyone in this industry who doesn’t deserve it.  Shortly thereafter, Nick and I began exchanging emails, and I came to appreciate just how solid a coach he is.  I did an interview for his newsletter a few months back, and now it’s time to reverse roles and share with you a bit of what he has to offer.

EC: Hi Nick, thanks for taking the time to be with us today.  Please take a few moments to fill our audience in on who you are, where you’ve been, and what you’re doing now.  Feel free to leave out any incriminating details, but don’t omit anything that’ll give me some firepower for busting Cosgrove’s chops! NG: First, thanks for asking me to do this interview. I guess I had a pretty standard childhood (fortunately, it was back in the day before computer games, so there was plenty of physical activity).  I always enjoyed sport and belonged to my local track and field and soccer clubs, although I was never setting the world on fire with my performances.  That was left to one of my older brothers, Chris, who has an annoying ability to be pretty good at any sport he even attempts. Around the age of 12, I got into Taekwon-Do, and once I got to black belt, I realized that I was pretty good!  To cut a long story short, I competed nationally and internationally for a number of years, and it was during this time that I was unfortunate enough to encounter Alwyn Cosgrove!  I have plenty of good stories – maybe a future e-book!  Al was at University and I was also thinking about getting out of my job in insurance to go to Uni.  I applied and was accepted at the same Uni as Al, which was great because we now both had a training partner and I think this was really when our understanding of the importance of physical preparation took off.  Alwyn graduated a couple of years before me and set up shop in America (the rest is history – fantastic wife, beautiful house, great career).  I finished my degree and went on to complete a post-graduate degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science. I began my coaching career at the Lilleshall Sports Injury and Human Performance Centre, where I worked for the British Gymnastics Team.  Since then, I’ve continued to work as a strength and conditioning coach working with many of the country’s elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic finalists; World, European and Commonwealth Games medalists; and professionals in a multitude of sports, including netball, cricket, hockey, skiing, professional football, rugby league, rally driving, Boxing and ultra-endurance running. I’m currently working for the English Institute of Sport, a lottery funded organization that provides a nationwide network of world-class support services designed to develop the talents of elite athletes.  My role is lead strength and conditioning coach for the West Midlands region and I’m responsible for the programming of 20-30 athletes from a range sports. In addition to the day job, I’m running Winning Edge Fitness Solutions (www.winningedgefitness.co.uk), a web-based venture delivering information to coaches and athletes on the latest advances in training. It’s been a real challenge, but it’s exposed me to so many great people that are out there that are working on the floor and getting results. EC: What are the main differences you see in the performance enhancement community in Europe as compared to North America?  What do you feel is unique that Europe has to offer us?  What do we offer to Europe? NG: The biggest difference is experience.  S&C is well established in North America.  Western Europe has been slow to catch up and S&C is only now starting to become a recognized career path.  I think we are at the “tipping point” and in the next five years, S&C will go from weakness to strength (excuse the pun).  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel through and visit some of the leading training establishments in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, so I’ve a pretty good idea of what’s out there. North America – experience is the key – S&C has been around for decades and it’s ingrained in the national culture (sporting culture…not the burger eating culture).  If I want to know what works over time in a practical environment, chances are I can get a good answer from a coach in the USA.  I’ve always found the coaches to be very open and honest on my visits to the USA (maybe because they don’t see a UK S&C coach as a threat!).  One drawback is that it’s sometimes difficult to take direct comparisons due to differences in national sports (American football, baseball, lacrosse, etc.) and a superior collegiate system.  The other negative is that at times you can be a bit insular, and given that Western Europe and the Southern Hemisphere is catching up in terms of S&C, you would do well to dig your passports out and take a flight out of America to come and see some of the good stuff that is taking place overseas. Western Europe – it’s exciting times!  The profession is young and that means there is a real desire to improve.  It’s a bit like sport – when you are a champion there’s always someone that wants to knock you off your perch; that someone is Europe!  I think there is a real passion to drive S&C forward and to begin to lead the way (let’s face it: Eastern Europe led the way for years).  The diversity that Europe offers culturally translates into S&C and we have the opportunity to go to different countries and see how their system works and then take it and apply appropriate parts to our training environment. When all that is said, we can all learn a lot from each other – I know that I’ve picked up a lot of very useful information during my travels and I really enjoy sharing my experiences with coaches from overseas. EC: Very interesting perspective.  Now, rapid fire: what are ten things our readers can do RIGHT NOW to become leaner, stronger, faster, and more muscular? NG: 1. Set goals – SMART goals so that you know where the journey is going to take you and how you are going to get to your destination. 2. Keep a training diary – You need to track your progress. 3. Train consistently – Set a plan and stick to it. It’s all too easy to say, “Hey, I’ll train today.”  If you don’t schedule a time to train, chances are you will get to the end of the day and you will have missed your session. 4. Recover well – You’ll understand why when you read the rest of the interview! 5. Concentrate on the 98% - I’ll explain this one later on. 6. Include conditioning work (prehab/remedial/injury prevention….call it what you like….my choice is conditioning) in your training session.  Superset between the main lifts – that way the work gets done and you will be on the way to becoming “bulletproof.” 7. Replace steady-state running with high intensity intervals – Come on, do I really need to explain this one?  Intervals will give you more bang for your buck than slow steady-state running. 8. Don’t get hung up on TVA recruitment – Isolating a muscle will not necessarily transfer to improved core strength during athletic movements.  Train how you are going to perform; make sure you hit all of the major muscle groups (rectus abdominus, obliques, erector spinae, etc.). 9. Learn to handle your bodyweight – I’ve worked with elite gymnasts – these guys are super strong.  I don’t really care what your bench is if you can’t even handle your own bodyweight with good form.  Don’t neglect the basics. 10. Whole body hypertrophy programmes – I’m with Alwyn Cosgrove on this one.  Why go for split routines when you can get a greater training effect from a whole body hypertrophy routine? EC: You’re on a sinking ship with your entire library of resources – training, nutrition, business, psychology, lifestyle, gardening, astrology, whatever.  What are the ten resources you save as the ship goes down? NG: OK, I’m not sure why I would have my entire library of resources on me during a cruise, but hey, I’ll go with it!  It’s really difficult to do this and I’ve not gone into my library (actually, bookshelves in a spare bedroom) to jog my memory.  I’m going with what comes to mind as a write this down. Physical Preparation Supertraining – Mel Siff (a no brainer - this is a must have – I was fortunate to see Mel present before he passed away – awesome knowledge base) Running: Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology in Practice - Bosch and Klomp (I just got this and it’s looking good) Speed Trap – Charlie Francis (not really a training manual, but there are some great insights into Charlie’s training concepts) Functional Strength Coach DVD Set – Mike Boyle (this is a must-have DVD series – 10 hours packed full of great information from Mike) Business The E- Myth - Michael Gerber (great one for anyone thinking of setting up a small business) So You Want to be a Physical Preparation Coach? – Ian King (this book helped me enormously when starting out – especially with my contract negotiations!) Fitness Info Products – Ryan Lee (I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now if I hadn’t bought this product) Lifestyle The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle – Jim Rohn (Great book that offers a real perspective on what’s important for success. The Millionaire Next Door – Stanley & Danko (I have this as an audio book and just loved the insights into behaviors and characteristics of the wealthy) Think and Grow Rich – Napolean Hill (tough going and one that took me a long time to get though but it certainly makes you think) EC: Speaking of sinking ships, where are most athletes missing the boat?  What common mistakes do you see all the time? NG: Don’t get me started or we will be here all day!  I will try to keep it brief and give you my top three: 1. Lack of consistency – So many people want a quick fix and want to see results yesterday.  Newsflash: it takes time.  I’m sure we are all familiar with the general rule of 10,000 hours of correct, progressive and adaptive training to be a successful athlete at the elite level.  Okay, so some of you may argue that not everyone will be operating at an elite level, but the general rule still applies; you need to do your time before you can expect to get some payback.  There are no shortcuts and one of my favorite quotes is “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”  Think about it! 2. Being too clever - People trying to be too clever and thinking that innovation should always mean advances in technology or the like.  Sometimes, innovation can be adopting a very simple approach.  I was recently listening to Vern Gambetta speak and he summed it up with this quote: “Everyone is looking for the 2% that is going to make a difference – but what about the other 98%?”  All too often, we worry about the small things when we don’t even have the basics under control.  You have no right to be doing the clever stuff until your have the 98% covered – and don’t forget it has to be done consistently. I think your Magnificent Mobility DVD is a great example of taking care of the 98%.  Please don’t be offended, but what you deliver is a simple-to-use resource.  The content is proven, it’s not fancy, it’s not clever, and you don’t need the latest piece of kit to perform the drills.  It takes care of the basics – that’s what will boost performance. 3. Poor Recovery – It’s all about training and what takes place during the 1-2 hour training session.  The majority of people neglect what happens during the other 22 hours!  You don’t improve from training; you improve by recovering from training.  This is an area that I’ve been looking at for the past 18 months and I guarantee that if you take care of the fundamental rules of recovery you will see your performances in the gym and in your sport go through the roof.  I’ve recently pulled together a heap of recovery information into a single training manual and I’ve put together the “recovery pyramid” that guides you through the myriad of different recovery strategies available. For more details, check out www.recoveryregeneration.com. EC: Right on.  I’ve read the e-report and it’s very thorough.  Moving on, what does the future hold for you?  Where is Nick Grantham going to be in five years? NG: More of the same, I hope!  I always find it difficult to predict where I will be in 5-10 years.  Back in 1992, I was working in Banking and Insurance, five years later I was graduating from University, five years on from that I was working with a national squad preparing them for a major World Championships.  I honestly wouldn’t have predicted any of those major events! I’m really enjoying what I’m doing at the moment.  The day job is fantastic; I get to work with some great high-level athletes in a tremendous working environment, and the website stuff is an exciting new area. I hope that whatever the future holds won’t take me too far away from what I really enjoy – and that’s coaching.  The new ventures that are starting this year are very exciting and I think that the UK is just on the verge of taking off in terms of getting the S&C message out to wider audiences; hopefully, I will be part of that movement. Moving away from work, I hope the future will bring some additions to my family; my daughter Erin needs some playmates!  The short answer is, who knows what I will be doing in five years?  I’m not too bothered, as long as I have my family and friends around me to share the experiences with (it would be very dull otherwise). EC: Feel free to shamelessly promote your products and services here.  I’ll just sit back and give a cyber “thumbs-up” as you go. NG: Well, Eric, the website has been name checked a few times!  The first two products to come out from Winning Edge Fitness Solutions are two in-depth reports. Recovery and Regeneration - The Essential Guide to Training Hard Without Falling Apart gives readers access more than 20 pages packed full of the latest information on recovery and regeneration. Vibration Training - From Space Exploration to Fitness Club is a slight departure from the norm, and I know I’ve had a dig at people being too clever!  However, like it or not, vibration training is big news and it’s important that you are up to date with the background information because you need to be able to be able to answer your clients questions on the latest advances in training technology – and they will be asking! The big thing you will then need to do is work out if it falls into the 98% or the 2% - but one thing is for sure: if you don’t have the information, you can’t make an informed decision. Other than the e-reports, I’ve got some exciting collaborations with two companies in the UK that are looking to establish a series of seminars throughout the UK (keep an eye on the site for my speaking schedule), as well as some possible joint ventures including a tennis-specific conditioning manual. EC: Thanks, Nick.  Where can our readers find out more about you? NG: Thanks for having me Eric. If your readers are interested in reading more about me or they simply want to take a look through my archives, then they can check out www.winningedgefitness.co.uk.  We run a free weekly newsletter packed full of training advice and regular features.  If your readers have any questions, they can also e-mail me at nick@winningedgefitness.co.uk. That’ll do it for this week’s update.  Until next week, train hard and have fun! EC

Memories of Red
Read more

Exclusive Interview: John Pallof

The Sturdy Shoulder Seminar Update

There are only five days left until the Sturdy Shoulder Seminar here in Boston, so if you’re on the fence about coming, be sure to check out the brief interview I did with Kevin Larrabee of the FitCast on Sunday.  As an added bonus, you can listen to about two hours of John Berardi after our quick chat.  Check it out HERE.

Those of you interested in attending can email me at ec@ericcressey.com for more information.  Hope to see you there!

Guinea Pigs Needed!

I can't let the cat out of the bag completely, but let's just say that I have an opportunity for five lucky newsletter subscribers to get four months of FREE online consulting with me.  If you fit this description, drop me an email at ec@ericcressey.com with a short write-up of why I should pick you, and you may be the lucky winner.  Requirements: 1. You must be an intermediate male lifter interested in building a strong, dense, functional body to get to the next level.  No complete beginners or hardcore bodybuilders need apply.  You can't wear a fanny pack, either. 2. You must be a healthy guy; this is not a rehabilitation program. 3. You must have purchased our Magnificent Mobility DVD and Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman's Inside-Out DVD/Manual (those who have not purchased either can become eligible by ordering the Monster Mobility pack). 4. You must be between the ages of 22 and 32 - ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs are all eligible. 5. You have to be willing to bust your butt in the gym.  If you're more interested in collecting stamps and playing checkers than you are getting diesel, this isn't right for you. 6. You can't be dirt broke and living in your parents' basement playing Dungeons and Dragons.  We're actually assuming that you can afford good food, protein powder, and a gym membership (sorry, home gym folks). 7. Along these same lines, you have to be willing to pay attention to nutrition; this isn't just a training thing.  Those who have John Berardi's Precision Nutrition program will get extra consideration. 8. You cannot be a pain in the butt.  I know nobody considers themselves a pain in the butt, but the truth is that there are a lot of you out there.  Remember that this is all free, so whiners will be prompty executed...or something like that. 9. You must be willing to take before and after pictures and recap your experience in writing - and understand that these photos and synopsis may be displayed publicly. 10. There really isn't a #10.  Lists of only nine look stupid, though. Again, if you meet these requirements and are interested, drop me a line at ec@ericcressey.com and toss your hat in the ring. This is a Huge Fish This has absolutely nothing to do with training, nutrition, supplementation, or anything that you typically associate with my newsletter, but look at the striped bass my older brother Brian caught this past weekend.  It’s 43” long, 30” around, and 38.5 pounds.  When they cleaned it, they found a full 10” flounder and 8” eel in its stomach.  Us Cresseys don’t mess around.

I guess you could say that Brian is the official accountant for EricCressey.com, so that has to justify this to some extent.  Anyway, congratulations.  Mom and Dad still like me more, though.

Exclusive Interview: John Pallof

I’m a nice guy.  I pay my taxes, get all giddy when I see new pictures of my baby niece, and never rip the tags off my mattresses.  However, when it comes to fitness and health care professionals, I’m a cynical bastard.  I read a ton and am always looking for ways to get better, so I guess you could say that I’m less than tolerant when it comes to people in this industry who are lazy and afraid to question the status quo.  This is probably why John Pallof and I get along so well (well, that and the fact that we’re both Irish, went to school at UCONN, and cheer for the Red Sox). John is without a doubt one of the brightest therapists I know.  He’s our go-to guy in Massachusetts, and has already been out to our facility to offer one more set of eyes to our most complex cases and highest-caliber athletes.  I just had to interview a guy who “gets it” so well. EC: Hey John, thanks for taking the time to talk shop.  As hackneyed a first question as it might be in the world of fitness interviews, could you please tell our readers a bit about yourself? JP:  I am a physical therapist first, specializing in treating athletes of all ages and levels.  I have worked hard to develop skills in both the PT and performance enhancement arenas, as I do actively train athletes anywhere from four to ten hours a week on top of my “normal” PT job at South County Physical Therapy in Auburn, MA.  As for the physical therapy side of things, I pride myself on my manual therapy skills, biomechanical assessment perspectives, and a very solid therex background, largely developed from my interactions with numerous professionals in the strength and conditioning field. EC:  I can’t believe you’re not even going to list “off color humor” as one of your finest qualities!  But anyway…one of the main reasons you’re our go-to guy in terms of physical therapy is that you think outside the box and really have an understanding of what it is performance enhancement coaches do.  How did you gather that perspective? JP:  I have had the great fortune to spend the past four years working with the two coaches I view as the standard to whom all other strength and conditioning coaches should be compared:  Jeff Oliver and Brijesh Patel, from the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester MA.  My career would not be where it is if not for them.  I have spent countless hours with these guys on a weekly basis, and they’re two of the brightest guys I know, in any field.  Above all, I have learned the value of generosity (in time, knowledge, and opportunity) and how to be a true professional from “Ollie.”  I have accepted the fact that we will probably all be working for Brijesh someday, as he is the most disgustingly organized, and hardest working person I know.  A woman at HC actually mistook me for B once – not sure if she had her glasses on! As far as gaining perspective on performance enhancement, the only way to learn it is to do it – do the training yourself, and coach, coach, coach – and then coach some more.  Plus, there is an abundance of good seminars and reading materials out there, so there is no excuse to slack off on learning. EC:  Along those same lines, why is it that most physical therapists aren’t able to see things like you are?  Where is the profession as a whole missing the boat? JP:  Some of the blame falls at the feet of the academic world, and thus the American Physical Therapy Association, who designs the standardized academic criteria for accreditation.  This can be a very long conversation, but in a nutshell…more emphasis needs to be placed on teaching students clinical reasoning skills – learning how to think critically – as opposed to dogmatic memorization of theories which are just that: theories.  Not to be overlooked as well, the therapeutic exercise component of the education process is pretty bad.  Most, if not all PTs have no idea how to teach a squat, much less an Olympic lift.  I was lucky enough to have Dave Tiberio and Mike Zito (among others) as role models while at UCONN, so I learned that it’s not really about memorizing crap; it’s about learning how to think and problem solve. EC:  You and I had a great discussion recently about lumbar stabilization, and I know our readers would love to hear some of the stuff you shared with me.  Care to fill them in a bit? JP:  I view abdominal musculature in two categories:  global stabilizers and local stabilizers.  Local stabilizers function to give segmental stability – control what happens between individual vertebrae – primarily shearing and compressive forces.  They give your spine integrity and prevent buckling when you flex/twist.  Examples include the transversus abdominus, multifidus, psoas, and to some degree the internal oblique due to its insertions into the thoracolumbar fascia.  Global stabilizers are your larger muscles that contribute to overall stability and help generate force – think rectus abdominus, quadratus lumborum, and external oblique, amongst others.  Paul Hodges and others helped develop these classifications, and are extremely bright therapists. EC:  Any helpful tips for training within these classifications? JP:  First, make sure you have good local stabilizer function, especially if the client has had LBP in the past.  Second, focus on isometric endurance (these are postural muscles remember).  Then, progress to force production and movement: just my two cents.  Remember – pain shuts these local stabilizers down – so athletes with a history of pain may need to work extra on these guys. EC: How about a few examples in this regard?  Any particular exercises you’re using frequently to retrain local stabilizers following injuries? JP:  Well, there are two main ones that I find myself using frequently – cable column (or stretch band) pushes and quadruped multifidus lifts.  CC pushes – standing in an athletic position (good lordosis, butt back, chest up/scaps back, feet beneath hips), the cable is parallel to your body – holding the handle with both hands in front of your belly button.  Without allowing trunk movement and maintaining good positioning, you slowly extend your arms to full extension (at stomach height), than slowly return.  Can do for reps or holds.  You are basically resisting a rotational force. EC: They’re called Pallof Presses, dude!  Tell the world! JP: Quadriped multifidus lifts – quadruped, with one knee on airex pad (knees beneath hips, hands beneath shoulders).  Slowly lift the down femur vertically by rotating your pelvis to level – no actual hip movement, more pelvis on spine motion.  Again, for reps, then progressing to holds for isometric endurance. EC: I know you’ve seen a lot of really bright physical therapists and coaches speak; who do you feel would be the best for trainers and ordinary weekend warriors to see? JP:  Mike Boyle; some of the Australian therapists (e.g., Mark Comerford) who are starting to make the rounds; and Brijesh Patel.  For PTs, any of the Maitland manual therapy seminars or Mulligan courses.  There are a ton of people who I have not seen but would like to in the years to come. EC: How about resources?  What five books, DVDs, manuals, CD-ROMS, etc. have impressed you? JP:  In no particular order: 1. Theory and Applications of Modern Strength and Power Methods, by Christian Thibaudeau 2.  Nutrient Timing, by John Ivy and Robert Portman 3. Atlas of Human Anatomy, by Frank Netter – by far the best and most accurate anatomy book, bar none. 4. Freakonomics, by Stephen Levitt – excellent book, examining how the “conventional wisdom” of anything is often wrong, when looked at objectively in the right context. 5. Spinal Mobilization Made Simple: A Manual of Soft Tissue Techniques, by Jeffrey Maitland – more of a reference – the Maitland manual therapy/clinical reasoning seminars are the best continuing education series out there – rock solid, phenomenal results, bulletproof reasoning methods.  Check out www.ozpt.com.  Lots of great research backing up the superior efficacy of manual therapy combined with corrective exercise. 6. Therapeutic Exercise for Lumbopelvic Stabilization: A Motor Control Approach for the Treatment and Prevention of Low Back Pain, by Paul Hodges and Carolyn Richardson.  Once again, those damn Aussies are ahead of the game when it comes to rock solid science.  Not “I think,” but “research shows” – and they don’t just talk about it, they apply it. Oops – that was six – had to include the anatomy book, because most people have no idea about something as basic as origins and insertions. EC: Thoughts on Stuart McGill’s stuff? JP: I like most of his concepts – very practical, and they make sense.  I have not seen him speak first-hand, but I’ve heard nothing but positive reviews.  I’m not sure that I agree with avoiding rotational movements in the spine – you can twist all you want, but you’re not going to get a lot of rotation in the lumbar spine due to the orientation of the facets – primarily compressive forces between opposing joint surfaces.  However, I completely agree with shearing forces, not so much compressive forces, being damaging to the spinal column.  The idea of isometric endurance rather than force production when training the core also makes tons of sense. EC: Randomly throw some idea out there that will really make our readers say “Oh, crap, that really makes sense!” JP: 1.  A muscle that often gets overlooked with shoulder impingement type problems – like the plain looking girl at the dance – the serratus anterior.  It’s very important for a few reasons: helps rotate and protract the scapula/acromion up and out of the way of the humeral head, and is also important for force coupling with the rhomboids/lower and middle trapezius. 2. Many “hamstring pulls” – especially chronic ones – are actually symptoms of a mild nerve irritation – neural tension dysfunction.  Just like a brake cable on a bike, your nerves need to glide through the tissue they travel through.  If they get hung up, they will become symptomatic to varying degrees.  Picture a brake cable on a bicycle – the metal cable glides through the plastic casing.  Your nerves need to be able to glide through the structures and tissues they travel through – as much as 7 to 10 mm in some areas! 3.  A topic of contention – the elephant in the room – the psoas.  While there are many theories out there, I believe the psoas acts along with the TVA/multifidus/internal oblique as a local/segmental stabilizer of the spine.  Think about the origins on the anterior surface of the transverse processes of the lumbar spine.  Why the hell would it attach so intricately if all it did was flex the hip?  The psoas atrophies in a fashion similar to the multifidus with back pain.  The multifidus and the psoas form a force couple/agonist-antagonist relationship, giving stability of one vertebrae on the other. EC: Very cool stuff, John; thanks again for taking the time.  How can our readers contact you? JP:  They can drop me an email at jpallofpt@hotmail.com.  Thanks again, Eric! Note from EC: John is actually on a much deserved vacation to the Carolinas this week, so if you email him and he doesn’t get back to you right away, don’t sweat it. That does it for Newsletter #29.  Have a great week! All the Best, EC
Read more

Dr. McGill: 20 Take Home Points

I was out of town for a two-day seminar with Stuart McGill last weekend and managed to get sick for the first time in as long as I can remember.  Fortunately, though, along with the flu, I brought back plenty of insights from a great weekend with Dr. McGill.  First, though, let’s get to some quick logistics…

Newsletter Re-Opt-in

As I’ve mentioned in the past two newsletters, we just switched our newsletter over to a new server and imported all the email addresses we had on file.  To complete the switch, we need to have everyone re-opt-in by clicking through the confirmation email they received.  If you didn’t receive an email earlier this week (and hadn’t confirmed previously), just drop us a note at ec@ericcressey.com and we’ll take care of making sure you’re still on the list.  Some of you likely received this newsletter announcement twice; it’s because we’re sending it to both lists temporarily to ensure that everyone gets the word.  This will be the last week of that; thanks for your patience!

The Sturdy Shoulder Seminar Update

Sign-ups are rolling in for the Sturdy Shoulder seminar at Excel Sport and Fitness Training in Waltham, MA.  To say that I’m excited about “christening” the new place with our first seminar would be an understatement, especially in light of the fact that there will be some of the best minds from the strength and conditioning and physical industries present.  For more information and a registration brochure, please drop us an email at ec@ericcressey.com.

20 Take-Home Points from a Weekend with Dr. McGill

I’ve seen Dr. McGill in seminar before, and by my own admission, I’ve always been more of a “listen and watch” guy than a note-taker.  However, that’s not to say that I didn’t hear a lot of great points that went right to my notepad.  Here were some highlights along with (in some cases) my commentaries on their applicability to what we do: 1. As counterintuitive as it may seem, flexion-intolerant individuals (e.g. disc herniations) will sit in positions of flexion, and extension-intolerant patients (e.g. spondylolisthesis) will sit in positions of extension.  It might give them temporary relief, but it’s really just making the problem worse in the long run.  We become intolerant to certain lumbar spine postures not only because we’re in them so much (e.g., cyclist or secretary in long-term lumbar flexion), but also because we’re forced into this posture due to a lack of hip mobility or lumbar spine stability. 2. It’s absolutely comical that the American Medical Association still uses loss of spinal range of motion as the classification scheme of lower back dysfunction.  There isn’t a single study out there that shows the lumbar spine range of motion is correlated with having a healthy back; in fact, the opposite is true!  Those with better stability (super-stiffness, as Dr. McGill calls it) and optimal hip mobility are much better off. 3.  Lower back health is highly correlated with endurance, while those with stronger and more powerful lower backs are more commonly injured.  The secret is to have power at the hips – something you’ll see in world-class lifters. 4. There is really no support for bilateral stretching of the hamstrings to prevent and treat lower back pain.  In most cases, the tightness people feel in their hamstrings is a neural tightness – not a purely soft-tissue phenomenon.  Dr. McGill believes that the only time the hamstrings should be stretched is with an asymmetry.  This is something I’ve been practicing for close to a year now with outstanding results; the tighter my hamstrings have gotten, the stronger and faster I’ve become.  The secret is to build dynamic flexibility that allows us to make use of the powerful spring effect the hamstrings offer; static stretching – especially prior to movement – impairs this spring. 5. Next time you see an advanced powerlifter or Olympic lifter, check out the development of his erectors.  You’ll notice that the meat is in the upper lumbar and thoracic regions – not the “true” lower back.  Why?  They subconsciously know to avoid motion in those segments most predisposed to injury, and the extra meat a bit higher up works to buttress the shearing stress that may come from any flexion that might occur higher up.  Novice lifters, on the other hand, tend to get flexion at those segments – L5-S1, L4-L5, L3-L4, L2-L3 – at which you want to avoid flexion at all costs.  Our body is great at adapting to protect itself - especially as we become better athletes and can impose that much more loading on our bodies. 6. Shear forces are far more of a concern than compressive forces; our spines actually handle compressive forces really well.  You can’t buttress shear effectively in flexion, so it’s important to avoid it – especially at the most commonly injured lumbar spine segments – at all costs.  The spine doesn’t buckle until 12,000-15,000N of pressure are applied in compression, but as little as 1,800-2,8000N in shear will get the job done. 7. The rectus abdominus is not about trunk flexion; it’s an anti-rotator that is responsible for transferring hoop stresses.  If it was about trunk flexion, it wouldn’t have the lateral tendinous inscriptions; we’d have hamstrings there instead! 8.  Don’t just train the glutes in hip extension; really pay attention to their role as external rotators.  Once you’ve mastered linear movements (e.g. supine bridges), you need to get into single-leg and emphasis movements like bowler squats and lunges with reaches to various positions.  These are great inclusions in the warm-up. 9. Contrary to popular belief, the vertebral bodies – and not the discs – are the shock absorbers of the spine.  Amazingly, the elasticity we see is actually in the bone; blood is responsible for pressurizing the bone. 10. End-plate fractures are the most common injury with compression; they almost always are accompanied by a “pop” sound. 11. Full flexion reduces strength in buttressing against shear by 23-43%, depending on hydration status (more hydrated equates to a bigger drop).  Our spines are “superhydrated” when we first wake up in the morning, so it’s especially important to avoid flexion at this time of day. 12. If your chiropractor is doing flexion-distraction, tell him to stop.  There are already some pretty noteworthy lawsuits taking place in this regard already.  Our spines aren’t designed to buttress shear that comes from the lower body moving backward on the upper body (one more reason to avoid the “hyper” part of reverse hyperextensions).  When the upper body shears forward on the lower body (e.g., hyperextensions), the facets take the stress (a problem, but not as huge a problem).  When the lower body moves on the upper body in flexion, the shearing stress goes on the discs. 13. Those with flat backs stand with less stress, but sit with more (on the posterior ligaments).  Those with lordotic backs have less stress posteriorly seated, but have more in standing. 14. Twisting isn’t a problem.  Torque isn’t a problem.  However, when you apply torque from a twisted position (especially chronically with faulty recruitment patterns), you’re setting yourself up for a world of back pain. 15. If you have 5% or more endurance on one side than the other with side bridges, it’s an injury predisposition.  The flexion to extension endurance ratio should be no more than 1.0.  Watch for unilateral side bridge endurance in unilaterally dominant sports like golf, tennis, baseball, etc.  Full lateral flexion at ball contact is a huge problem in golfers, and the best golfers don’t combine twisting and torque. 16. Disc herniations can actually tolerate quite a bit of compression as long as the spine is positioned in neutral.  Speaking from my own personal experience, disc injuries are not death sentences, people; you can bounce back and still do a lot of the things you enjoy if you handle things appropriately. 17. Abdominal hollowing is about as useful as a crap-flavored lollipop (that was my pun - not Dr. McGill's - for the record). 18. Supermans and Roman Chair hyperextensions are ridiculously outdated.  You’re much better off with birddogs - both from EMG and reduction of spine load standpoints. 19. Stability balls might increase fiber recruitment, but they can also double the spine load.  Most rehab patients have no places on stability balls – and I can’t say that the rest of the population ought to be on them that much, either (more to come from me on that in the next few months). 20. Twenty minutes appears to be the “golden timeframe” when it comes to creep (the loss in stiffness and disc equilibrium that occurs when ligaments are stretched).  Whether you’re an athlete coming off the bench or someone at a desk job, move around every 20 minutes – and make sure that you warm-up thoroughly before all activities. As an interesting aside to all of this, Dr. McGill and I actually spoke at length about the importance of hip mobility – something that obviously is closely related to all twenty of these points.  If you lack mobility at the hips, you’re forced to go to the lumbar spine to get it, and that is a serious limitation to building stability.  On several occasions, Dr. McGill alluded to Mike Robertson and my Magnificent Mobility DVD, so if you’re looking to protect your back, improve performance, and feel better than you ever thought possible, check it out at www.MagnificentMobility.com. Additionally, I can’t say enough great things about Dr. McGill’s book, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance; a resource like this can protect you from a lifetime of pain, so it’s impossible to put a dollar value on it.  That said, $49.95 is a steal.  And, on a related note, if you ever have the chance to see him speak, don't pass it up. That’ll do it for this week, but before I go, I want to send out a special thanks to everyone who made donations to Boston Medical Center after last week's newsletter; we raised $265 for a great cause.  We’ll be back next week with a great interview that I’m sure you’ll all really enjoy. All the Best, EC
Read more

Fun with Hugo

We're back with somewhat of an off-color newsletter this week.  Although it's a bit lengthier than my typical newsletters, I think you'll all still enjoy it - especially since it culminates with a special offer.

The Sturdy Shoulder Seminar Update

Just a reminder that the early reistration deadline for our first seminar at Excel Sport and Fitness in Waltham, MA is this Saturday, October 14th.  Right now, in addition to a strong local contingent, we have attendees coming from Canada, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, NY/NJ, and all over New England.  It will be more than just a great educational experience; it will be a great networking event, too.  Many of the attendees are accomplished strength and conditioning coaches at the collegiate and professional levels.  Don't miss out; email ec@ericcressey.com for a registration brochure. One Last Reminder for the Re-Opt-In As I've mentioned in the past two newsletters, we're on the brink of switching our newsletter over to a new server.  If you haven't already done so, please send an email to ecressey-178309@autocontactor.com to ensure that you will continue to receive our newsletter updates.  We'll officially be making the switch this week.

Fun with Fan Mail

Being an internet writer isn’t much different than being a waiter, if you really think about it. Most of the time, people enjoy your food (articles), and everyone’s happy. Occasionally, though, steaks get burned (people don’t like your topic), or drinks get spilled (people don’t like you), and you get bad feedback. However, where these two occupations markedly differ is that waiters don’t typically get customers (readers) who like to stand outside the restaurant and relentlessly berate them because the wine was room temperature when it was supposed to be slightly chilled. The internet changes all of that, though; writers are all easily accessible, and people are far more likely to act inappropriately in the emails they write than they would in person. I have the good fortune of having one "fan" who likes to do just that. To protect his identity, for the sake of this article, upon Mike Boyle’s stellar recommendation, we’ll just call him Hugo Faulkurself. Back in early November of 2005, I published an article at T-Nation called 10 Uses for a Smith Machine.  The main gist of the article was that Smith machines are about as useful as a condom at the Vatican. However, since we know they’re perpetually going to occupy part of the space at almost every gym we encounter, I offered ten tips – from hurdle drills, to suspended extensions, to bench throws – for actually putting these overpriced coat racks to decent use. At the time, the article was very well received. Then, in late January, an irritated Hugo Faulkurself bumped up the article discussion in defense of the Smith machine, and in spite of my willingness to response to his inquiries professionally on the thread, he chose to send me the following email (left unedited in order to maintain the effect):
Eric, You don't know what you are talking about. If you knew who invented the smith machine and why it was invented then you would understand how great this machine can be. Unfortunately, closed minded people such as yourself always go against exercises that work. Who are you? I have read some of your articles and must say that you are an arrogant, pompous, egotistical, sarcastic book smart kid. Big deal so you have power lifted 340 on bench and 500 on squat. When I was 18 years old I benched 400 pounds, squated 650 at 163lbs (natural). I got bored with power lifting. I started body building and now I know more about body building than you will ever know. I am a natural athlete. I don't take supplements. I eat right. You take a bunch of garbage that is found on the t-nation website. You should just take steroids because what you're taking is very similiar. You are young and you have a terrible looking physique. YOU ARE NOT A BODYBUILDER!! So stop giving dumb advice to bodybuilders. Keep your stupid power lifting remarks to power lifters. You can continue to have your distended (1 pack) abs and skinny legs and skinny arms. Leave bodybuilding to me and my brothers. I am ripped to the bone 220 steroid and supplement free. I started lifting before you were born. I am tired of you young egotistical college brats thinking that you are god's gift to the world. You are probably one of those kids who had some psychological insecurity and never could develop a good physique so you began power lifting to fill the insecure void. ANYONE CAN POWER LIFT. All the fat, big assed smooth as a bar of soap fellas resort to power lifting. All the power lifters I know all have big asses, blown out shoulders, cross syndromes, lumbar disc problems. IT takes a real man to body build. All you science boys mostly have terrible looking physiques. You slam coaches of being "old school" well son if we are supposed to train like you say then we will look like you, I will stick with old school methods thank you very much, because I don't want to have a physique like yours. You can be a sarcastic bastard behind the computer. You are a good writer I will give you that but as far as your training advice you lack the knowledge of creating a great physique. Not everyone is playing on a sports team and you think that you have come up with this "new" type of training. You are just developing new ways because you don't know how to really train. I trained with the best and we didin't jump around like an idiot, we didn't use rubber freaking bands, etc. If I wanted to train like that I would have joined the circus. Give me a break freaks like you are ruining the true essance of bodybuilding. Keep in mind I may be a genetic freak but I look way better than you at age 50. I have never had any injuries and I still compete. I have trained thousands of people and they all made great gains. I have used the smith machine and developed an incredible chest. You are young and are only book smart. You have no real life experience. Leave the bodybuiding to REAL Men. It must be a bummer having a genetically poor physique. I saw you at the holy cross seminar and was dissapointed that you looked liked a typical power lifter, no symmetry, no shape, just a big stomach and skinny legs. HF
(initials changed to protect the hopelessly confused) Once I had finished laughing and forwarded the email on to a few friends for their amusement, I ignored it. That is, until August 3, when I received an email from someone (claiming to be 24 instead of 50) with the same last name and a virtually identical email address. I suppose I’ve either upset the entire family, or my favorite fan has actually taken up different identities just to bust my chops over the internet. Damn, I feel important; Mom is going to be so proud of me. It read (unedited, again):
Eric, I noticed your website and will say that you have good writing skills and seem well versed in book knowledge, but what about experience. You can lift a lot of weight, but lifting heavy doesn't really mean much if you are not a competitive power lifter. I was going to hire you to train me, however, I saw you at a current seminar and I must say I was rather surprised of your physique. All this time I pictured you as a ripped, bodybuilder type guy. To my surprise you were bulky and fat, over developed traps, imbalanced pecs to back proportion, distended abs, skinny legs. I guess that must be the look that power lifters must like. For me I am interested in having a bodybuilders physique. Do you know of anyone who bodybuilds that you could recommend that I get in touch with. I am not interested in power lifting, or functional training. I am 24 and haven't played football in years and don't want to train like a football player. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Good luck with the power lifting.
I’m seriously not making this stuff up, folks. Four years ago, I would have been tempted to get into an internet pissing match with him. However, at the ripe ol’ age of 25, I’ve realized that the best way to win an argument is to avoid it, so I just ignored it…sort of. You see, the thing about internet trolls is that they want you to fall into the trap of arguing with them. They know that it screws with your productivity and interferes with the important things in life. By arguing with them – or even replying to them – you give them exactly what they want: attention and the assurance that they’re getting under your skin. Isn’t that right, Hugo? Well, I’m here to burst your bubble, Mr. Faulkurself. Your plan backfired; I’m using your emails to a) educate the masses, b) advance my career, and c) actually raise money for charity. How so? Read on. Where Hugo is Missing the Boat Let’s review Hugo’s comments of interest one-by-one: 1. “When I was 18 years old I benched 400 pounds, squated [sic] 650” Lesson #1: If you want people to believe your fabricated internet PRs, you should never use even numbers like 400 and 650 – or the multiples you get with 45-pound plates (e.g., 315, 405, 495). If you were smart, you’d have said 402 and 644 – both kilogram equivalents. Likewise, you might have wanted to play it safe with your assertions, as those numbers would have made you one of the best 18 year-old 165s in history – and in an era that hadn’t seen today’s advances in supportive/assistive equipment. Finally, for added emphasis, you should have followed up these statements with a few sentences about your beloved pet unicorn, and possibly some sort of explanation of why OJ was innocent. 2. “…at 163lbs (natural)”and “I am a natural athlete.” and “I am ripped to the bone 220 steroid and supplement free.” Lesson #2: The number of times you mention that you are natural is inversely related to the likelihood of you actually being natural. This was Weider Principle #479, Hugo. And you don't even take Flintstone chewables? 3. “YOU ARE NOT A BODYBUILDER!!” Lesson #3: Capitalizing something we all already know will not make your revelation seem any more significant.  I'm not a chaffeur, magician, protologist, or Latin American folk singer, either; what's your point? And no, we haven’t forgotten that you’re natural yet. 4. “So stop giving dumb advice to bodybuilders.” Lesson #4: Never call someone dumb when your allegation is grammatically incorrect. This is a dependent clause, Hugo; you would be better off using “You should” in place of “So.” Yes, irony is a bitch (and this is true irony, as it’s tragic how hopeless your punctuation is). 5. “I am tired of you young egotistical college brats thinking that you are god's gift to the world.” Lesson #5: You’re more likely to get God on your side if you capitalize his name. The big man upstairs is a proper noun, you know. 6. “You are probably one of those kids who had some psychological insecurity and never could develop a good physique so you began power lifting to fill the insecure void.” Lesson #6: Typically, those with psychological insecurities about their physiques don’t take the initiative to deadlift over 600 pounds in just a wrestling singlet in front of a hundred or so people. Ever wonder why anorexics wear very baggy clothes? 7. “ANYONE CAN POWER LIFT.” Lesson #7: Last time I checked, nobody has ever been refused from entering a bodybuilding show.  In fact, you've got MILLIONS of people around the world calling themselves bodybuilders even though they've never competed. Meanwhile, not everyone who does sets of one rep in training automatically becomes a powerlifter, so you could say that our discipline is a bit more exclusive. And didn’t we cover this all capital letters issue earlier? 8. “All the fat, big assed smooth as a bar of soap fellas resort to power lifting. All the power lifters I know all have big asses, blown out shoulders, cross syndromes, lumbar disc problems.” Lesson #8: Generally speaking, having a big ass is a preventative measure against lower crossed syndrome, which is characterized by overactive hip flexors and hamstrings, with weak abdominals and glutes. And for the record, bodybuilders have a lot more shoulder impingement, patellar tendonosis, Achilles tendonosis, and IT band friction syndrome than do powerlifters. 9. “IT takes a real man to body build.” Lesson #9: Everyone be sure to commit this quote to memory. Be sure to chant it to yourself during your next concentration curl drop set. Leave the 900-pound deadlifts for the sissies. 10. “You can be a sarcastic bastard behind the computer.” Lesson #10: Yes, I can – especially when given great material like this. 11. “ If I wanted to train like that I would have joined the circus”. Lesson #11: You're in luck.  Being an internet troll automatically qualifies you to join the circus; you don’t even have to try out. 12. “Give me a break freaks like you are ruining the true essance [sic] of bodybuilding. Keep in mind I may be a genetic freak but I look way better than you at age 50. I have never had any injuries and I still compete.” Lesson #12: Never call someone a freak after you’ve spent an entire email asserting that they’re mediocre-looking and genetically inferior – especially if you call yourself a freak in the following sentence in an attempt to impress others. On a semi-related note, don’t drink your tanning lotion, people. 13. “I have trained thousands of people and they all made great gains. I have used the smith machine and developed an incredible chest.” Lesson #13: Your extraordinary success and that of your clients is inversely related to the amount of time and desire you have to harass people via email. 14. “Leave the bodybuiding [sic] to REAL Men.” Lesson #14: Real men go to war for their country, help old ladies carry groceries, take their sons fishing, and call their mothers often. They also study up on the English language when they realize they’re writing at a third-grade level in spite of being 50 years old. You’re not as special as you think. 15. “It must be a bummer having a genetically poor physique. I saw you at the holy cross seminar and was dissapointed [sic] that you looked liked a typical power lifter, no symmetry, no shape, just a big stomach and skinny legs.” Lesson #15: It’s very difficult to assess someone’s physique when they’re wearing dress clothes. For the record, I was about 180 at 11% body fat (as measured on a DEXA scan, which doesn’t inflate results like other commonly used methods) at the time of the seminar, and it was about three weeks after I’d pulled 601 at 164 in competition. If you understood the demands of powerlifting, you’d realize that it’s silly for me to get too lean, as it’ll screw with my endocrine system and sap my strength. Given your “natural” status, Hugo, I would have thought that you’d be well versed in how a non-assisted lifter has to manipulate the endocrine system for optimal progress. Also, I thought all the powerlifters you know have big asses? You know me; how can I have a big ass and skinny legs? Isn’t my ass part of my legs?

16. “You can lift a lot of weight, but lifting heavy doesn't really mean much if you are not a competitive power lifter.”

Lesson #16: The most successful bodybuilders are also really damn strong. Ronnie Coleman credits a lot of his success to the foundation he built as a powerlifter. Think about it this way…who is going to have more stimulus for growth: a guy benching 225 for eight reps, or a guy benching 315 for eight reps? You can’t have strength endurance if you don’t have strength. 17. “To my surprise you were bulky and fat, over developed traps, imbalanced pecs to back proportion, distended abs, skinny legs”. Lesson #17: Pay attention, folks: when you really want to get under a powerlifter’s skin, be sure to call him out on his overdeveloped traps and pec-back balance. I’ve already started to see a therapist to get over this one. 18. “I guess that must be the look that power lifters must like.” Lesson #18: Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but powerlifters tend to look like powerlifters. Likewise, the basketball players I train tend to be tall; they look like basketball players. The hockey guys are missing teeth; they look like hockey players. And the models that I've trained? Well, they have great breasts; it absolutely kills their pecs to back proportion, but we manage to get by. I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m willing to bet that my powerlifter "look" might actually be a protective adaptation that occurs in response to lifting a crapload of weight over a prolonged amount of time. Don’t take my word for it, though; I’m just a book smart geek with no symmetry. 19. “For me I am interested in having a bodybuilders physique. Do you know of anyone who bodybuilds that you could recommend that I get in touch with.” Lesson #19: Perhaps you should check with your other identity/father; he sure seems to know a lot about bodybuilding. 20. “I am 24 and haven't played football in years and don't want to train like a football player. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.” Lesson #20: Do not read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” backwards. It’s never a good idea to insult someone before you ask them for a favor. How Hugo is Helping Me As I mentioned, I gain nothing by replying to these emails; doing so would cost me money and distract me from what’s important in my life. I have, however, made lemonade out of rotten lemons. You see, Hugo, your email gave me subject matter for an article. That article will bring unique readers into my network. They’ll sign up for my newsletter, buy my DVD and manual, and support the sites for which I write. This gives me a loyal following, immediate income, and job security, respectively. In turn, I can devote more time and money to continuing education and traveling to train with great lifters. This will expand my knowledge base and enable me to bring in more clients, write more articles and books, and speak at more seminars – thus spreading my philosophy further throughout the industry. You’ll have that much more asymmetrical, distended, big-assed, rubber-freakin’-band-using, sarcastic Eric Cressey propaganda standing in the way of the “essence” of bodybuilding, as you call it. So, Hugo Faulkurself, the joke’s on you. And the Smith machine still sucks. About the Author Eric Cressey is a performance enhancement specialist at Excel Sport and Fitness Training in Waltham, Massachusetts. He takes pride in the fact that he looks like a powerlifter and has absolutely no symmetry. His pec tie-ins are probably subpar, and he wouldn’t know a striated glute from decade-old piece of beef jerky. Nonetheless, women in the Greater Boston area love his distended abs, distorted traps, and big ass. In spite of his genetic inferiority, Eric somehow manages to publish a free weekly newsletter at his site, www.EricCressey.com. Assuming you’re not genetically superior and into Smith machines, you’ll probably like it. Adding Insult to Injury fFor Hugo Here’s what we’re going to do to make these even better, folks. First, I want you to forward this to a friend or two. Encourage them to subscribe to the newsletter and pass the link along to their friends. Let’s make sure that there are LOADS more people out there who can piss Hugo off. Second, in appreciation of your spreading of the word, for the next 48 hours, I’m going to give 15% off The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual to everyone who clicks through the following link: http://www.1shoppingcart.com/app/adtrack.asp?AdID=265220 What’s better, though, is that for every manual sold, I’m going to donate $10 to the Boston Medical Center.  One of my training clients will be running the Boston Marathon in the spring to raise money for this charity, so all proceeds will go directly to Boston Medical Center.  I'll report back next week with the results of these donations.  If any of you would like to make a donation of your own in Hugo's honor, drop me an email at ec@ericcressey.com after you do so and we'll add your number to the pool and give you some love in Newsletter #28.  In the "My gift is in honor of" section, just type in "Steph B's Marathon fundraising efforts."  Thanks to everyone in advance; this is a great cause. Have a great week! EC
Read more
Page 1 8 9 10 11 12 13
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series