Home Posts tagged "Show and Go" (Page 3)

Corrective Exercise: Sequencing the Law of Repetition Motion Sequence

When it comes to corrective exercise programs, everyone simply wants to know "what" is and isn't included - and rightfully so. Picking the right strength exercises and mobility drills - and contraindicating others - is absolutely crucial to making sure you get folks to where they want to be. However, very rarely will you hear anyone specifically discuss the "when" in these scenarios, and as I'll demonstrate in today's piece, it's likely just as crucial to get this aspect correct. To begin to illustrate my point, I'm going to reuse a quote from an article I wrote a few weeks ago, Correcting Bad Posture: Are Deadlifts Enough?, on the Law of Repetitive Motion : Consider the law of repetitive motion, where “I” is injury to the tissues, “N” is the number of repetitions, “F” is the force of each repetition as a percentage of maximal strength, “A” is the amplitude (range of motion) of each repetition, and “R” is rest.  To reduce injury to tissues (which negative postural adaptations can be considered), you have to work on each of the five factors in this equation.

You perform soft tissue work – whether it’s foam rolling or targeted manual therapy – on the excessively short or stiff tissues (I).  You reduce the number of repetitions (length of time in poor posture: R), and in certain cases, you may work to strengthen an injured tissue (reduce F).  You incorporate mobility drills (increase A) and avoid bad postures (increase R). What I failed to mention a few weeks ago, though, was that the sequencing of these corrective modalities must be perfect in order to optimize the training/corrective effect and avoid exacerbating symptoms.  Case in point, we recently had a client come to us as a last resort with chronic shoulder issues, as he was hoping to avoid surgery.  Physical therapy had made no difference for him (aside from shrinking his wallet with co-pays), and following that poor outcome, he'd had a similar result with soft tissue treatments twice a week for six weeks.  In a single four-week program, we had him back to playing golf pain free.  What was the difference?

In the first physical therapy experience, he'd been given a bunch of traditional rotator cuff and scapular stabilization exercises.  There had been absolutely no focus on soft tissue work or targeted mobility drills to get the ball rolling.  In other words, all he did was improve stability within the range of motion he already had.  In the equation above, all he really worked on was reducing the "F" by getting a bit stronger. In his soft tissue treatment experiences, he felt a bit better walking out of the office, but ran into a world of hurt when his provider encouraged him to "just do triceps pressdowns and lat pulldowns" for strength training.  In other words, this practitioner worked on reducing "I" and increasing "A," but totally missed the boat with respect  to enhancing strength (reducing "F") and increasing rest ("R") because of the inappropriate follow-up strength exercise prescription.  Doh!

What did we do differently to get him to where he needed to be?  For starters, he saw Dr. Nate Tiplady, a manual therapist at CP, twice a week for combination Graston Technique and Active Release treatments (reducing "I") at the start of his training sessions.  He followed that up with a specific manual stretching, positional breathing, and mobility exercise warm-up program (increase "A") that was designed uniquely for him.  Then, he performed strength training to establish stability (decrease "F") within the new ranges of motion (ROM) attained without reproducing his symptoms (decreasing "N" and increasing "R). The sequencing was key, as we couldn't have done some of the strength exercises we used if we hadn't first gotten the soft tissue work and improved his ROM.  He may have had valuable inclusions in his previous rehabilitation efforts, but he never had them at the same time, in the correct sequence. This thought process actually closely parallels a corrective exercise approach Charlie Weingroff put out there much more succinctly in his Rehab = Training, Training = Rehab DVD set: Get Long. Get Strong. Train Hard.

Keep in mind that there are loads of different ways that you can "get long."  You might use soft tissue work (Active Release, Graston Technique, Traditional Massage, etc.), positional breathing (Postural Respiration Institute), mobility drills (Assess and Correct), manual stretching, or any of a host of other approaches (Mulligan, DNS, Maitland, McKenzie, etc).  You use whatever you are comfortable using within your scope of practice.

When it's time to "get strong," you can do so via several schools of thought as well - but the important thing is that the strength exercises you choose don't provoke any symptoms.

It's interesting to note that this corrective exercise approach actually parallels what we do with our everyday strength and conditioning programs at Cressey Performance - and what I put forth in Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.  We foam roll, do mobility warm-ups, and then get cracking on strength and stability within these "acutely" optimized ranges of motion to make them more permanent.

Related Posts

Corrective Exercise: Why Stiffness Can be a Good Thing Strength Training Programs: Lifting Heavy Weights vs. Corrective Exercise - Finding a Balance

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Show and Go for Baseball Strength and Conditioning?

In the past few months, I've gotten quite a few inquiries about whether Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better is a good fit for baseball players. While I never wrote the book with the intention of training this athletic population, it can be quickly and easily modified to fit the unique needs of baseball.  The principal changes are going to be: The big differences are going to be: 1. Use more front squatting, and little to no back squatting (we do use a lot of giant cambered bar and safety squat bar variations at Cressey Performance). 2. Eliminate barbell bench pressing and overhead pressing, instead plugging in some dumbbell bench pressing and pushup variations, as seen here and here.

3. In the off-season, we usually do medicine ball work 2-3x/week.  The medicine ball volume is higher in the early/mid-off-season and lower during the late off-season and in-season phases.  For some exercise ideas, you can check out this post of mine, as well as my YouTube Channel.

Usually, this medicine ball training is incorporated before lifting or movement training.

4. I'd add some rhythmic stabilization work 2x/week - as seen here.

All in all, the program is surprisingly versatile for the baseball player.  In the off-season, the 4x/week template works great.  Then, as the late off-season and pre-season get underway, the 3x/week program is a better fit.  In-season, you'll see more position players and relief pitchers using the 2x/week approach, whereas starters can get in 3x/week lifting.  Obviously, the volume may be reduced, but the exercise selection, overall training schedule, training stress fluctuations, core training, and warm-up sequences are all very applicable. It won't be perfect, but it'll be markedly better than any of the cookie cutter or football lifting programs you'll see out there.

For more information, check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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EC Turns 30, So You Save $50

Friday is the 9th anniversary of my 21st birthday my 30th birthday. Normally, I'd write a long post for the occasion, but truthfully, now that I'm getting old and decrepit, I figured I'd better conserve my waning energy and get right to the point. Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better will be on sale for $77 from now through Sunday, May 22th, at midnight. That's $50 off the normal price - and this is a price that was previously only been available during the initial launch of the e-book.  And, it won't be around again for a long time, because 31st birthdays just aren't at all memorable. Plus, it stands to reason that I'll probably spend the entire next decade driving a minivan, changing diapers, wondering where my hair went, and playing awful defense in an old man basketball league while wearing Croakies and high tube socks.  Come to think of it, this might be my last blog post ever.  I guess you'd better purchase a copy of Show and Go as soon as possible to preserve my legacy before I slip into internet obscurity.

You can read loads of testimonials on the Show and Go website, but in case you'd like a few more examples of happy customers, check out these reviews: Show and Go Review: Get Strong and Destroy Clothes Show and Go Review: A Personal Trainer's Experience Review of 8 Months of Show and Go and Maximum Strength Show and Go Training Review: THE Way to Get Strong I'm off to enjoy the last few hours of my 20s, but in the meantime, you can head over to www.ShowandGoTraining.com and take advantage of this great offer on an extremely versatile strength and conditioning program that can be implemented for just about any goal! Remember, this offer expires on Sunday at midnight. Already a Show and Go customer?  I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Review of 8 Months of Show and Go and Maximum Strength

I just received this feedback from a very happy customer and thought I'd share it with you: Hi Eric, I just completed Show and Go last week and tested my lifts yesterday.  I thought you'd like to see the results. Broad jump:  80" to 84" Front box squat:   240 to 265 Bench press:  190 to 210 Trap bar deadlift:  310 to 340 Chin-up 3RM:  220.2 to 234.7 My body composition stayed pretty constant.

Show and Go followed Maximum Strength.  Putting the two together, here are the results from the last 8 months (i.e., pre-Maximum Strength vs. post-Show & Go): Broad jump: 77" to 84" Front box squat: 155 to 265 Bench press: 150 to 210 Trap bar deadlift: 240 to 340 Chin-up 3RM: 197.8 to 234.7. Not a bad way to spend eight months, especially at almost 43 years old and only 170 lbs.  Thanks to you, I can, for the first time in my life, bench press more than my weight, front squat more than 1.5 times my weight, and deadlift almost twice my weight. Thanks for producing these workout plans.  I look forward to following the next program you release. Best, Scott Garland As you can see, Show and Go makes for a great follow-up strength and conditioning program to Maximum Strength.  If you haven't checked out both, I (like Scott) would encourage you to do so! Maximum Strength: Get Your Strongest Body in 16 Weeks with the Ultimate Weight-Training Program Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Trust vs. Self-Reliance

Back in graduate school, an opportunity arose to invest in an up-and-coming company.  At the time, I was swamped with student loans and really didn’t have the $5,000 “buy-in” to spare.   However, I’d always had the “entrepreneurial spirit,” and the company was recommended by a more experienced colleague I trusted (who’d also bought in), so I decided to take the plunge and devote a hefty chunk of my bartending (grad school evening job) income to the cause. Almost a decade later, it’s been a tax deduction for me every April, as the company has lost money year after year.  The lowlight came when the vice president walked off with $80,000 to waste on strippers and cocaine, as us unenthused investors were told.  Apparently, when it comes to venture capital, there are “angel investors” and “poor grad students who accidentally fund guys who like boobs.”  It didn’t take me long to figure out which category I was in (although I did take time to consider that $80K is a lot of $1 bills).

I’ve learned lessons from books, DVDs, seminars, training people from all walks of life, and lifting myself – but throwing $5K down the toilet when I really didn’t have it to spare actually ended up teaching me a valuable lesson: no matter who you trust, the only person you can really count on is yourself. This can really be applied to just about any walk of life – from business (obviously) to personal development.  Every decision you make in life is really a balance between trust and complete self-reliance. When you hire an employee, it’s because you trust that he or she will do a good job with clients and customers at the level you expect.  Otherwise, you’d have to extend hours and do everyone yourself…24/7/365. When you go to church and put a few dollar bills in the collection plate, you trust that everyone who touches that money along the way will, in fact, ensure that it goes to the right place.  Otherwise, you’d have to hand deliver your donation each week. When you go to the doctor, you trust that he or she has been educated properly and is thorough enough to give you a diagnosis that might save your life.  Otherwise, you have to get second opinions – or try to diagnose yourself.

Heck, even as you read this newsletter, you trust that I know my arse from my elbow (and in light of my stellar investment story from above, a lot of you are probably second-guessing yourselves already). Catch my drift?  Your life is really a series of dependencies on others, as much as you might hate to admit it. This applies to your strength and conditioning program in a big way. When you go to the gym, you trust that the ownership of that facility has properly maintained that equipment so that it’s not going to break while you’re using it.  Otherwise, you’d be checking out each piece of equipment meticulously between each set. When you connect with a training partner, you trust that he or she is going to be as motivated as you and push you to be better.  Otherwise, you’re lifting by yourself. When you purchase a fitness product, you trust that the author has the experience necessary to create a program that’ll deliver the results you want in a safe and timely manner. How do you ensure that your strength and conditioning program (or any aspect of your life) doesn’t end up as a series of failed dependencies on others? 1. Review the résumé of anyone you’re considering. When it comes to selecting people to work at our facility, the résumé is something that gets you a foot in the door – much like an academic transcript or SAT score might impact college admissions.  At the end of the day, how you act during an interview and perform on the job is more important to me.  For you, though, if you’re looking to purchase a fitness product, check on the background of who created it.  Are they training people – or have they at least done so in the past?  Or, are these hypothetical programs? 2. Look for a track record of success. This might seem synonymous with checking on a résumé, but it’s actually different.  I’ve known people with tremendous on-paper accomplishments who couldn’t cut it in the real world because these achievements didn’t translate to a different realm, or because their previous success had made them complacent and apathetic.  Sadly, I’ve also met people who have forged résumés altogether.  Do your homework by seeking out testimonials and asking around – and that’s where #3 will come into play.

3.  Surround yourself with as many positive – and insightful – people as possible. Your first impression is usually the correct one, but it never hurts to have additional perspectives from those around you.  While there’s no way you can ever guarantee that all the advice you get is good, consistently reevaluating the relationships you keep can be really valuable – not only in terms of making sure that you have the best advice on hand, but also in determining if you need to get someone’s negativity out of your life.  Not every friendship is going to work out, not every business dealing will be a good fit, and not every book/DVD will appeal to you.  The more you can “hone in” your social circle, the better the decisions you’ll make – whether it’s in avoiding the extra slice of chocolate cake, deciding to go for the PR bench press on a day when you could have slacked off, or buying book “X” instead of DVD “Y.” 4. Look for a way out; there should always be a fall-back option. You can test-drive the care before you buy it.  You can find a new training partner if things aren’t working out.  You can always fire an employee if they aren’t the right fit.  Many products have money-back guarantees. 5. Only delegate within your comfort zone. Learning to delegate was the absolute hardest thing for me when we opened Cressey Performance and I had co-owners and employees for the first time in my life.  It took some time, but now I have people doing everything – billing, scheduling, taxes, maintenance, answering the phone – that doesn’t allow me to effectively leverage my strengths: assessments, program design, and coaching.  Comfort in this regard doesn’t magically happen; it’s something that develops over time. To bring this lesson to a close, look back at my botched investment and apply these five principles to it. I didn’t even know the president or vice president of the company, and therefore never checked their résumés (#1).  They’d never run a business before and had no track record of success (#2).  Rather than running my idea by multiple people, I went on the basis of one colleague – who was more of an acquaintance, anyway (#3).  There was no fall-back option, so with this being my first investment opportunity, I would have been smarter to go with something more low-risk, such as investing in stocks/bonds rather than a brand new company (#4). I instantly delegated everything, and to people I didn’t even know!  There was no easing into it (#5). I deserved to lose my money; I was an idiot. To take the guesswork out of your programming, check out my new program, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel , and Move Better.  I promise, you can trust me – and there’s a money-back guarantee.

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Corrective Exercise: Why Stiffness Can Be a Good Thing

With reference to strength and conditioning programs, the adjective "stiff" is generally perceived to be a bad thing, as folks mean it in a general sense.  In other words, you seem "locked up" and don't move well. Taken more literally and applied to specific joints, stiffness can be a very good thing.  A problem only exists if someone is excessively stiff - especially in relation to adjacent joints.  If someone has the right amount of stiffness to prevent movement at a segment when desired, then you would simply say that it's "stable."  That doesn't sound too bad, does it? This is generally a very confusing topic, so I'll use some examples to illustrate the concept. Example #1: Reducing kyphosis. Take your buddy - we'll call him Lurch - who sits at a desk all day long.  He's got a horrible Quasimodo posture, and he comes to your for help with improving it.  You know that his thoracic spine is stuck in flexion and needs to be unlocked, so you're obviously going to give him some thoracic spine mobility drills.  That's a no brainer.

However, would you say that Lurch would make better progress correcting bad posture with those drills alone, or if he combines those drills with some deadlifting, horizontal pulling strength exercises, and a more extended thoracic spine posture during the day?  Of course Lurch would do much better with those additions - but why? All those additions increased stiffness. With the thoracic erectors adequately stiff relative to the cervical erectors (which create forward head posture when too stiff) and lumbar erectors (create lordosis when too stiff), there is something to "hold" these changes in place.  If you're just doing the thoracic spine mobilizations, you're just transiently modifying stiffness (increasing tolerance to stretch) - NOT increasing range of motion!

You know what else is funny?  In 99% of cases like this, you'll also see an improvement in glenohumeral range of motion (both transiently and chronically).  Mobilize a thoracic spine and it's easier to create stiffness in the appropriate scapular stabilizers.  When the peri-scapular muscles are adequately stiff, the glenohumeral joint can move more freely.  It's all about understanding the joint-by-joint theory; mobility and stability alternate. Example #2: The guy who can squat deep with crazy stiff hip flexors. A few years ago, one of our interns demonstrated the single-worst Thomas Test I've ever seen.  In this assessment, which looks at hip flexor length, a "good" test would have the bottom leg flat on the table with no deviation to the side.  In the image below (recreated by another intern), the position observed would be indicative of shortness or stiffness in the rectus femoris and/or psoas (depending on modifying tests):

In the case to which I'm referring, though, our intern was about twice as bad as what you just saw.  He might very well have had barnacles growing on his rectus femoris, from what I could tell.  But you know what?  He stood up right after that test and showed me one of the "crispest" barefoot overhead squats I've ever seen.

About an hour later, I watched him front squat 405 to depth with a perfectly neutral spine.  So what gives?  I mean, there's no way a guy with hip flexors that stiff (or short) should be able to squat without pitching forward, right?

Wrong.  He made up for it with crazy stiffness in his posterior hip musculature and outstanding core stability (adequate stiffness).  This stiffness enables him to tap in to hip mobility that you wouldn't think is there.

Is this a guy that'd still need to focus on tissue length and quality of the hip flexors?  Absolutely - because I'd expect him to rip a hole in one of them the second he went to sprint, or he might wind up with anterior knee pain eventually.

Does that mean that squatting isn't the best thing for him at the time, even if he can't do it?  Not necessarily, as it is a pattern that you don't want to lose, it's a key part of him maintaining a training effect, and because you want him to feel what it's like to squat with less anterior hip stiffness as he works to improve his hip mobility (rather than just throw him into the fire with "new hips" down the road).

These are just two examples; you can actually find examples of "good stiffness" all over the body.  So, as you can imagine, this isn't just limited to corrective exercise programs; it's also applicable to strength and conditioning programs for healthy individuals.  Effective programs implement mobility exercises and self myofascial release to transiently reduce stiffness where it's excessive, and strength exercises to stiffen segments that are unstable.  Effectively, you teach the body how to move correctly - and then load it up to work to make that education permanent.

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

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Show and Go Review: Get Strong and Destroy Clothes

I just received this review from a happy customer of Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better (and grow out of every single piece of clothing you own): Eric, Thought I'd add to your pile of stories about my experience with Show and Go. As a 30 year-old non-athlete who has never truly followed a complete training program, Show and Go really challenged me, brought some great results, and has turned me into a huge snob in the gym (my rest periods are generally spent grimacing at peoples' form and judging them for their partial range movements/exercise choices). The biggest challenge for me was adapting to the longer workouts/more volume/new exercises. As I reached the end of the program I certainly noticed I had adapted well.

I did not test my 1RM before starting, but I had good estimates and without a doubt I am much stronger and much more confident in my body to handle heavier loads. My results: 1RM Deadlift  - 380 (approx. +60lbs) 1RM Front Squat - 245 (approx +55lbs) 1RM Bench Press - 260 (approx +30lbs) Other stats of note: - Gained about 9lbs even though I know I don't eat enough - Literally ripped the back of 5 pairs of pants bending over or sitting down (and grew out of most of the rest of them) - Grew out of almost all my suits (pants and jackets) I'll be coming back to Cressey Performance in the next few weeks to get a new program in person and can't wait. Hopefully my legs/butt will settle down and stop growing out of pants. It's getting to be an expensive hobby for someone who has to dress up for work everyday. Thanks for this program. It was what I needed and it worked. Your blog and Tony's blog helped with continued motivation and instruction throughout. You guys have a good thing going. Looking forward to what's next. Zach Stanley Whether you're a beginner or a veteran lifter, I'd encourage you to check out the program that had Zach splitting pants and moving big weights: Show and Go. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique video!
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Strength Training Programs: How Many Sets and Reps? – Part 2

In today's post, we've got the second half of a Q&A response regarding how to determine the optimal number of sets and reps for strength exercises.  In case you missed the first installment, be sure to check out Strength Training Programs: How Many Sets and Reps - Part 1.  We pick up with factors 7-13:

7. Whether You’re Trying to Correct Muscle Imbalances – In Part 1 (Bulletpoint 4) of my five-part Correcting Bad Posture series, I talked about how I like to use a 2:1 pull-to-pushing ratio with those who have significant upper body muscle imbalances.  In addition to upping the sets, you can also use higher rep schemes.  So, something like this would be an easy way to accumulate more volume:

A1) Chest-Supported Row - Neutral Grip: 4x8
A2) Low Incline Barbell Press: 3x6

Effectively, you're not only getting more total sets in favor of "postural balance;" you're also getting more reps per set.

8. How Neurally Efficient a Client/Athlete Is – Some athletes – especially those who tend to be of a more slow-twitch muscle fiber predominance – always seem to need to get more sets in on their strength exercises.  This is impacted in a lot of them by a previous history of endurance training – whether it’s high school soccer or a dedicated running career – that made them less efficient at tapping in to high threshold motor units.  The same holds true for female athletes; they always seem to need a little extra volume on strength exercises; it’s almost as if they can’t ramp up to a max as quickly as men.  I don't think you necessarily need to increase reps per set, but definitely ought to consider adding an additional set or two.

9. Whether You’re Trying to Achieve a Metabolic Training Benefit – Some programs use a concept called metabolic resistance training to improve cardiovascular conditioning and increase energy expenditure so that you can burn fat faster. Generally, in programs like these, you’ll need more sets and higher reps to elicit this training effect.

10. Whether You’re Dealing with a Post-Injury Client – In these folks, you want to keep the sets and reps down and gradually ease them back in to things.  So, while a “normal” client might be fluctuating up and down to impose and decrease training stress, respectively, an post-injury client would be gradually increasing the sets and reps to match his/her capacity for loading at a particular time.

That said, you have to be cognizant of giving them sufficient volume to maintain a training effect and keep them from going insane.  So, using the example of someone with shoulder pain, you might have to cut back on pressing movements, but you can really bump up the volume on horizontal pulling sets and reps.

11. What Else You're Doing - The base mesocycle of the Smolov Squat Program goes like this:

Monday: 4x9
Wednesday: 5x7
Friday: 7x5
Saturday: 10x3

Sure, this is a ton of work (and very specific work at that), but quite a few lifters have used it with excellent success.  You know what, though?  Try adding a lot of extra sets and reps for "other stuff" and you'll fail...miserably.  You can't specialize on everything all at once.  If sets and reps go up in one facet of your strength and conditioning program, they have to come down somewhere else.

12. Whether Soreness is of Concern - With our in-season athletes, we want to avoid soreness at all costs.  The easiest way to do this is to avoid changing strength exercises, but this isn't really feasible, as most athletes will get sick and tired of doing the same thing over and over again all season.  So, we need to be careful about strategically substituting new strength exercises during in-season training.  One way to make it go smoothly is to simply keep the sets and reps down in the first round through a new training program.  Let's say that we were doing front squats in-season.  We'd probably go something like this:

Week 1: 1x3 reps
Week 2: 3x3 reps
Week 3: 3x3 reps
Week 4: 2x3 reps (deload)

This leads me to my final point...

13. Whether or Not an Athlete is In-Season - If an athlete is in-season, less is more.  I prefer to have our athletes leave the gym feeling refreshed after their in-season training sessions - so they might be completely finished with a lift after only 8-10 sets of strength exercises in session.  You can get in more sets and reps during the off-season.

That wraps up the primary considerations that come to mind for determining the sets and reps in a strength training program.  Of course, there are many more to consider.  A closing suggestion I'd add is to try to review as many different programs by various coaches as possible. Chances are that you'll pick up some important trends that will help you to write your own programs.


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Strength Training Programs: How Many Sets and Reps? – Part 1

Q: I know this is a loaded question with hours upon hours of answers, but I'm trying to make some sense about the different kinds of ways/philosophies involved in writing strength and conditioning programs. I have read different articles and chapters in books that discuss program development, looked at programs at my current job, and can write a basic one for a new athlete. It's not the exercises; I'm familiar with plenty and love seeing something new. My problems come more with the sets and reps and when they change and why; I can’t seem to map out the actual progression of the program.

What philosophies, if one, do you follow and what basic rules do you find to be the most important when determining the sets and reps?

A: This is a loaded question!  The best way to get better with programming is simply to write a ton of programs and see what works and what doesn't.  However, with respect to your specific questions on sets and reps, what you choose to utilize is going to be dictated by:

1. The duration of a session - You won't be able to do 6 sets of 4 reps if you only have an client/athlete for an hour and want to accomplish other things.  This is, in particular, a big issue in collegiate strength and conditioning programs because the NCAA allows only limited number of hours per week with athletes, and sport coaches and strength and conditioning coaches have to share this time.  Additionally, it's a challenge for personal trainers in private training set-ups where clients may train in 30-, 45-, or 60-minute blocks.

I've written several times in the past about how I would never allow our business model to dictate our training model - and this sets and reps question is one reason why.  At Cressey Sports Performance, we do all semi-private training, which allows for sliding starts and finishes.  It allows us to get in all the work we need to do with clients - regardless of the sets and reps in question.  Likewise, as you'll see in the rest of this two-part series, you'll appreciate that it's why we don't have one program standardized for everyone on the dry erase board; every single CSP client has a unique program  because they all have unique needs.

2. Competing demands - The more variety (plyos, conditioning, medicine ball work, etc) that you want to add to a program, the less volume you'll be able to do on strength training.  We have limited time and recovery capacity, so we can't just keep adding all the time.

For me, a good example is what happens over the course of the baseball off-season.  Lifting volume is high when they get back, throwing is a no-go, movement training is 2x/week, and medicine ball is light.  After the first month, medicine ball work goes up, lifting comes down a bit.

Then, at the start of January, medicine ball and lifting volume comes back down and throwing volume increases.  We then get rid of medicine ball work almost altogether and go to 3x/week movement training as the season approaches, throwing intensifies, and guys do more hitting.  So, it doesn't just depend on the exercises; it depends on the big picture.

A great follow-up read to this point would be my post, Weight Training Programs: You Can’t Just Keep Adding.

3. Exercise selection - If you're doing more sets, you'll want to do it on "money" exercises like deadlifts and not curls, etc.  Moreover, certain exercises lend themselves better to higher reps than others.  For instance, we never front squat anyone over six reps, because technical breakdown often occurs with fatigue.  You also wouldn’t want to do cleans for sets of 15!

Usually, it’s also good to just “call it” on a particular exercise and move on to the next if someone has already dropped the weight on subsequent sets and form continues to deteriorate.  That energy is better spent on different exercises where technique can remain perfect even in the presence of fatigue.

4. Training age - As a general rule of thumb, the more experienced they are, the more sets and FEWER reps they'll need.  At this point in my training career, I just won't get strong on sets of five. Here's another good follow-up read: Why I Don't Like the 5x5 Workout.

Conversely, beginners generally need more sets and reps to pick up on things.  That doesn’t mean that you should just do three sets of 15 reps on everything with a novice, though.  I find myself teaching squat and deadlift variations with four sets of five reps quite a bit; the load, however, is light enough that the lifter could usually do 10-12 reps.  In other words, it’s just technique practice.

5. The Training Goal and Client/Athlete in Question – While taking heavy singles over 90% of one’s 1-rep max may be ideal for helping folks get strong, working at such a high percentage in some populations warps the risk: reward circumstances. Whether it’s older folks, those with injuries, or athletes who have a lot more to lose by getting hurt than they have to gain by adding five pounds to their squat, you have to take each individual situation into consideration.  I always remind people that we lift weights to improve quality of life, not just so that we can talk about how heavy the weights we lifted were.

6. Whether You Want to Impose or Remove Fatigue – In a “loading” week, volume is going to be higher.  If you’re deloading, though, that volume is going to be reduced.  Aside from beginner strength training programs, volume should never be the same over several weeks in a row.  I discuss several deloading strategies in my e-book, The Art of the Deload.

I’ll be back in a tomorrow with more factors that influence the sets and reps in a strength training program.  In the meantime, if you're looking for a comprehensive strength and conditioning program to take all the guesswork out of things for you, check out The High Performance Handbook.


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How I’m Breaking Out of My Training Rut: The Lean Hybrid Muscle Strength and Conditioning Program

The baseball off-season is a lot of fun for me, but it also means crazy long hours, loads of competing demands, and quite a bit of stress.  To take it a step further, though, most of my long hours are spent on my feet on the floor at Cressey Performance, which isn’t exactly conducive to making progress in a training program.  Topping it off, we've gotten about 470 feet of snow in the Northeast this winter, which makes us all want to simply go into hibernation!

While I’ve gotten all my gym sessions in during this time, the reality is that in many cases, they were a lot more like “working out” than they were “training.”  And, although I haven’t wasted away, it’s never a good sign when someone you haven’t seen for a few months asks you if you’ve lost weight when you haven’t been trying to do so – and that happened a few weeks ago. The end result?  I’m under 190 for the first time in over two years – and sadly, I’m not really any leaner (or stronger, for that matter). Something clicked two weekends ago, though.  Since the gym is closed on Sundays, I find it’s the best day for me to go in refreshed and get in a good lift.  Thanks to a little rest, loud music, and a good training partner, I sumo deadlifted 500 for a set of five.  And, it felt damn good! It also made me realize how much of a pansy I’d been in the gym for the two months prior.  With that realization, I headed home to put a program for myself on my to-do list. The next morning, I woke up anticipating writing that strength and conditioning program (along with about a dozen others!), but before I could get to it, I found an email from Mike Westerdal waiting for me.  And that email included an advanced copy of the new product he created with Elliott Hulse: Lean Hybrid Muscle.

For those who don’t know of Mike, he’s a strong dude, with competition bests of 640 squat, 630 bench, and 600 deadlift at a body weight of 242.  And, through his website, criticalbench.com, he’s helped thousands of guys bust through their bench press plateaus, not to mention interacted with and programmed for a lot of experienced lifters.  Elliott is no quack, either; he is a professional strongman and runs a hardcore gym in Tampa, FL. I’ve often reminded my readers that that if you need a contract written, you’d go to a lawyer.  If you needed your taxes done, you’d go to an accountant. Well, I’m also here to say that if you need a program to kick you in the arse when you’ve been training like a sissy, you go to qualified lifters and coaches who have consistently helped people get strong, burn fat fast, and put on muscle.  And that’s what I did.

And, I’ve definitely received that kick in the arse.  The past 10 days of training have been some of the more challenging I’ve encountered in over a decade of lifting.  And, just as Westerdal assured me, it has been a nice change of pace from the powerlifting-oriented work I’ve done in the past.  Here’s what I like about the program: 1. Concurrent Periodization – it might be high volume, but that doesn’t mean that you won't be able to increase strength.  If your goal is changing body composition – and not just dropping fat or building muscle exclusively – it’s a great resource.  Anybody can get you to lose weight with a high volume program, but not everyone can help you maintain or even increase strength and build muscle mass in the process. 2. Video Demonstrations – Mike and Elliott have links to every exercise featured in this strength and conditioning program, so if you don’t recognize one, you can quickly and easily check it out.  I know my stuff in this regard, but it was helpful when I came across a few new ones that these guys must have invented themselves. 3. Versatility – I’m fortunate to have quite a few extra goodies – sledgehammers, farmer's walks handles, tires, turf, kettlebells, sleds, slideboards, kegs – at my fingertips, and Mike and Elliott are all about incorporating what you’ve got into the strength training program.  I’ve used it to modify the interval work included in the program.  They also give you a wide variety of strength exercises from which to choose so that you can work around injuries or specialize on your weak areas. The benefits certainly go well beyond these three points (the nutrition component/meal plans are excellent, for instance), but in the interest of brevity, I’d highly encourage you to check out Lean Hybrid Muscle.  It actually makes for a great follow-up to Show and Go, for those of you who are just wrapping up that program. For more information, head over to the Lean Hybrid Muscle Website. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series