Home Posts tagged "strength and conditioning program" (Page 14)

In-Season Baseball Strength and Conditioning: Part 4 – Professional Baseball

This is the fourth installment of a series on in-season strength and conditioning for baseball.  In case you missed them, here are links to check out the first three parts of this series:

Part 1: General Assumptions about In-Season Strength and Conditioning for Baseball
Part 2: In-Season High School Baseball Strength and Conditioning
Part 3: In-Season College Baseball Strength and Conditioning

Today, I'll be talking about what I believe to be the optimal set-up for professional baseball players.  This might be a minority in the big picture of all the baseball players on the planet, but pro guys' responses to in-season strength and conditioning programs can really tell us a lot.

Professional baseball players are the ones with the most accumulated wear and tear on their bodies, so effective programming is essential.  Likewise, they play daily games - often upwards of 200 per year when you combine spring training, the regular season, and post-season play - so you really need to be able to manage competing demands and fatigue if you want to keep pro guys healthy and performing at a high level.

We'll break things down by position.

Position Players

Position players tend to represent the widest range of preferences.  On one hand, you have guys who are completely dragging from having to stand on their feet for hours upon end day-after-day.

On the other hand, I've known guys who literally want to do something every single day - whether it's lifting, med ball, sprinting, or a combination of one or more.  Don't believe me? Here's an awesome email I got from a big league middle infielder who trained 5x/week (3-4 lifting sessions and 1-2 movement training sessions):

I want to thank you for all that you've done for me, EC.  In this my 18th professional season, I can say, without a doubt, this is the best I've felt during any season.  By following your program, I was able to stay strong and explosive the whole season.  This is the best I've felt after the season too.  I don't have any nagging injuries or soreness and I know this is because I followed your programs. I can't express in words how much you contributed to my success this season.

We're talking about a guy in his late 30s with a lot of years of service time under his belt - and he felt better by doing more.  Don't be afraid to make guys work in-season; if you don't, they'll eventually break down.

This, of course, is the rarity; most guys will be best off finding the balance between doing nothing and doing what we did in the above example.  I tend to give position players the most wiggle room in terms of time and day of their lifts.  They can either do it earlier in the day, or after games.  We usually shoot for three full-body lifts per week on non-consecutive days - and never with more than 15 sets in a given day.  One of those three lifts is almost exclusively upper body and core work.  They get in, do their work, and get out.

Some guys, however, prefer to split things up into two upper-body and two lower-body sessions per week.  They are shorter sessions, but are good for ensuring that athletes are going through their foam rolling and mobility drills more frequently.

Catchers

In my high school and college examples, I included catchers with position players' programming needs.  However, when you catch 4-5 games a week, things change - and we take that into account with our programming.

First off, we don't squat our catchers in-season.  Trust me, they squat enough.  We use more deadlift variations and single-leg exercises during the season.

Second, I encourage catchers to lift post-game, if they have the opportunity and energy to do so.  Training before a game might be okay for a pitcher or position player, but crushing a lower body lift right before getting in the bottom of a squat for three hours isn't particularly appealing.  If you can get in the work the night before, you've got a better chance of being fresh.

Third, I think that 2-3 strength training sessions per week is sufficient - and only two of those days have lower body work in them.  It takes far less volume than you can possibly imagine to maintain strength, so a couple sets each of a bilateral and unilateral exercise usually does the trick for catchers in-season.

Also of note, I don't like the idea of guys lifting much on their off-days from catching.  If you're only getting 1-2 days off from catching per week, you might as well use them for full recovery.  In other words, try to consolidate training stress and earn 24-hour "recovery windows" where you can.

Starting Pitchers

Professional baseball starting pitchers might have the coolest job and schedule in professional sports.  It's very predictable - and they should be able to get in a good 12 lifts per month on the following schedule:

Day 0: pitch
Day 1: challenging lower body lift, light upper body work
Day 2: movement training only
Day 3: challenging upper body lift, easier lower body work
Day 4: low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits only, or off altogether
Day 5: next pitching outing

If they wind up with five days between starts, they can split the day 3 training session up into upper body (Day 3) and lower body (Day 4), then take a day off on Day 5.

Life is tough, huh?

kluber1174888_10151546064200388_2121925070_n

Relief Pitchers

Describing what I do with my relief pitchers is a mouthful, but I'll give it a shot.

Every reliever has three strength training "options" and one movement training day in each program that I send them:

Long Option (Full-Body Strength Training: 15-17 sets)
Movement Training
Short Option 1 (Full-Body, but Lower Emphasis: 8-12 sets)
Short Option 2 (Full-Body, but Upper Emphasis: 8-12 sets)

Here's exactly how I describe it to them:

"If you go over 20 pitches in an outing, perform the regular Day 1 and then Day 2 in the subsequent two days, as you can assume you won't throw for 48 hours.  Then, progress to Short Option 1, day off, Short Option 2.

"If you make less than 20 pitches, go right to Short Option 1, then Day 2, then Short Option 2, then day off.  This is good for when you think you may be going on back to back days.  You can do the Short option lifts earlier in the day even if you think you may be throwing a bit that night; the volume will be so low that you'll still be fresh.

"If you are going to be a long/middle reliever, most of your work will be the Day 1, Day 2, Short Option 1, Day off, Short Option 2, etc. option.  Listen to your body and take days off when you need to, but at the very least, make sure you're getting in the gym 2-3 times a week.

"If you're going to be a 'face-one-guy' reliever or a closer, you'll be doing more of the short option work."

ECCishek

Hopefully, that makes sense - because our guys have loved it and I know of a few smart pitching coaches "in the know" who have implemented it in their programs with excellent success.

That wraps up this series on in-season strength and conditioning.  It's taken a long time to test-drive these programs and tinker with them to make sure that they work.  At the same time, though, no two athletes are the same, so be sure to individualize your recommendations whenever possible.

Please help me spread these articles around via Facebook, Twitter, and emailed links, as we need to get the word out that in-season training is a must for baseball players at all levels!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email

A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 2

Written on January 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm, by Eric Cressey

A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 2

By: Eric Cressey

In Part 1 of this article series, I discussed everything that was wrong with distance running for pitchers.  In Part 2, I’ll outline my thoughts on how to best integrate conditioning for pitchers between throwing sessions.  This article will focus on managing starters, but I suspect you’ll find that managing relievers isn’t entirely different aside from the fact that you’ll need to “roll with the punches” a bit more.

I think the best way to introduce this article is to describe a coincidence from the beginning of the year.    On January 5, I received an email from one of my pro pitchers asking me if I could outline some thoughts on my between-start strength and conditioning mentality, as his old college pitching coach had asked for his input from him, as he was a student of the game and had tried some non-traditional ideas. In response to that email, I replied with essentially everything I’ll describe in this article – plus everything I outlined in Part 1 with respect to how bad a choice distance running is.

The coincidence didn’t become apparent until a week or two later when I got my hands on the January installment of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which featured a study entitled “Noncompatibility of power and endurance training among college baseball players.”

These researchers divided a collegiate pitching staff into two groups of eight over the course of a season, and each group did everything identically – except the running portion of their training programs.  Three days per week, the “sprint” group did 10-30 sprints of 15-60m with 10-60s rest between bouts.  The endurance group performed moderate-to-high intensity jogging or cycling 3-4 days per week for anywhere from 20-60 minutes.

Over the course of the season, the endurance group’s peak power output dropped by an average of 39.5 watts while the sprinting group increased by an average of 210.6 watts (1).  So, basically what I’m saying is that I was right all along – and I’m totally going to brag about it.  Part 1 of this series simply justified all of my thoughts; now it’s time to put them into a framework.

Some Prerequisite Q&A

As a response to Part 1, I got an email from a college pitching coach looking for some further details, and here were his questions (bold) and my answers:

Q: Is running 1-2 miles once a week considered distance running?

A: I’d call anything over 150m “distance running” in a pitching population, believe it or not.  I haven’t had a baseball player run over 60 yards in two years – and even when they go 60, they’re build-ups, so only about 50% of that distance is at or near top speed.

Q: Is running 10 poles in 30s with one minute of rest considered distance?

A: Let’s say it takes 30s to run a pole, and then you rest a minute (1:2 work: rest ratio).  Then, you go out and pitch, where you exert effort for one second and rest 20s (1:20 work:rest ratio).  This is the equivalent of a 100m sprinter training like a 1500m runner.

Q: Don’t you need some endurance to pitch a complete 9-inning game?

A: If all endurance was created equal, why didn’t Lance Armstrong win the New York or Boston Marathon?  Endurance is very skill specific.  Additionally, there is a huge difference between exerting maximal power over 20-25 individual efforts with near complete rest (a sample inning) and exerting submaximal efforts repeatedly with no or minimal rest.

Q: What about guys who are overweight?  What should they do?

A: Fat guys should be paperweights, bouncers, sumo wrestlers, or eating contest champions.  If they want to be successful players at the D1 level or beyond, they’ll sack up and stop eating crap.  Several years ago, I promised myself that I would never, ever try to use extra conditioning to make up for poor diet.

Q: What are your thoughts on interval training?

A: We know that interval training is superior to steady state cardio for fat loss, but the important consideration is that it must be specific to the sport in question.

These responses should set the stage for the following points:

1. The secret is to keep any longer duration stuff low-intensity (under 70% HRR) and everything else at or above 90% of max effort (this includes starts, agilities, and sprints up to 60yds).  For more background on this, check out the McCarthy et al. study I outlined in Part 1.

2. Ideally, the low-intensity work would involve significant joint ranges-of-motion (more to come on this below).

3. Don’t forget that pitchers rarely run more than 15 yards in a game situation.

4. Strength training and mobility training far outweigh running on the importance scale.

5.  If you need to develop pitching specific stamina, the best way to achieve that end is to simply pitch and build pitch counts progressively.  If that needs to be supplemented with something to expedite the process a bit, you can add in some medicine ball medleys – which can also be useful for ironing out side-to-side imbalances, if implemented appropriately.  However, a good off-season throwing program and appropriate management of a pitcher early in the season should develop all the pitching specific endurance that is required.

The 5-Day Rotation

In a case of a five-day rotation, here is how we typically structure things.  Keep in mind that dynamic flexibility and static stretching are performed every day.

Day 0: pitch
Day 1 (or right after pitching, if possible): challenging lower body lift, push-up variation (light), horizontal pulling (light), cuff work
Day 2: movement training only, focused on 10-15yd starts, agility work, and some top speed work (50-60 yds)
Day 3: bullpen (usually), single-leg work, challenging upper body lift (less vertical pulling in-season), cuff work
Day 4: low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits only
Day 5: next pitching outing

Notes:

1. When a guy happens to get five days between starts, we’ll typically split the Day 3 lifting session into two sessions and do some movement training on Day 4 as well.

2. I know a lot of guys (myself included) are advocates of throwing more than once between starts.  For simplicity’s sake, I haven’t included those sessions.

3.  There are definitely exceptions to this rule.  For instance, if a guy is having a hard time recovering, we’ll take Day 2 off altogether and just do our sprint work after the bullpen and before lifting on Day 3.  That adds a full day of rest to the rotation in addition to the really light Day 4.

The 7-Day Rotation

With a 7-day rotation, we’ve got a lot more wiggle room to get aggressive with things.  This is why in-season can still be a time of tremendous improvements in the college game, especially since you can work in a good 2-3 throwing sessions between starts.  Again, dynamic flexibility and static stretching are performed every day.  To keep this simple, I’m going to assume we’ve got a Saturday starter.

Saturday: pitch
Sunday: challenging lower body lift, light cuff work

Monday: movement training only, focused on 10-15yd starts, agility work, and some top speed work (50-60 yds); upper body lift

Tuesday: low-Intensity resistance training (<30% of 1RM) circuits, extended dynamic flexibility circuits

Wednesday: full-body lift

Thursday: movement training only, focused on 10-15yd starts, agility work, and some top speed work (50-60 yds);

Friday: low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits only

Saturday: pitch again
Of course, traveling logistics can throw a wrench in the plans on this front sometimes, but the good news is that collegiate pitchers have six days to roll with the punches to get back on schedule.
Closing Thoughts

As you can see, I am a big fan of quality over quantity. Our guys only sprint twice in most weeks – and certainly not more than three times.  This certainly isn’t the only way to approach training between starts, but I’ve found it to be the most effective of what our guys have tried.
References
1. Rhea MR, Oliverson JR, Marshall G, Peterson MD, Kenn JG, Ayllón FN. Noncompatibility of power and endurance training among college baseball players. J Strength Cond Res 2008 Jan;22(1):230-4.

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

Name
Email

One Response to “A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 2”

  1. eugene sedita Says:
    Wow, I’ve got nothing to do with pitching and throwing and still read these articles like a mystery novel, (just couldn’t stop ) Thanks, Eric, very interesting.

Leave a Reply

Logged in as Eric Cressey. Logout »

Registered user do not need to go through CAPTCHA test.

Read more

In-Season Baseball Strength and Conditioning: Part 2 – High School Baseball

In case you missed Part 1 of this series on In-Season Baseball Strength and Conditioning, you can check it out HERE.

Today, I'll be discussing how to attack in-season training for high school baseball players.  I'll divide things up between position players (plus catchers) and pitchers.

Position Players/Catchers

With our position players and catchers, we typically opt for two full-body strength training sessions per week.  Some players, however, will opt for shorter, more frequent training sessions.  This may be the case for "gym rats" who feel better when they lift more often, or those who simply aren't getting much playing time and really want to continue developing.

These players get enough movement training just from taking ground balls and sprinting during warm-ups and practices, so there usually isn't any need to add extra movement training to their programs.

We also keep medicine ball volume down because they're already doing a lot of high volume rotation with their throwing and hitting.  They'll do their foam rolling and mobility work daily, though.

Pitchers

High school pitchers are challenging to train because most are two-way players – meaning that they play a position in the field when they aren’t pitching.  As a general rule of thumb, I encourage kids to avoid catching and playing SS/3B if they are going to pitch regularly, as the throwing volume really adds up.  If a young athlete pitches fewer than three innings per week, though, we just train him like we would a position player, but try to make sure that at least one of these training sessions comes the day after throwing.  I like this approach because it not only "consolidates" stress into a 24-hour block to allow for better recovery, but it also forces a kid to go through his mobility drills, soft tissue work, and manual stretching with us to "normalize" his range of motion after a throwing appearance.

If a pitcher throws more than three innings per week, it’s best to try to pin down one particular day of the week when he is a starter.  If he starts on Friday, he’d want to lift Saturday and Monday or Tuesday.  Moreover, if he strength trains on Monday, he’ll have the option of getting in another good brief, light session on Wednesday.  Like the position players, our pitchers take part in daily foam rolling and mobility work.

Sample Schedule for a Position Player/Catcher with games on MoWeFr

Su: off completely
Mo: Game
Tu:  Practice and Strength Training (shorter option)
We: Game
Th: Practice, but no strength training
Fr: Game
Sa: Practice, Strength Training (longer option)

I may deviate from this schedule and do a bit more (added Thursday strength training session) with a younger player who needs to develop (usually have fewer practices/games, anyway) or someone who is not getting all that much playing time.

Sample Schedule for a Pitcher with only one start per week (same as college pitchers on 7-day rotations)

Mo: Pitch
Tu:  Strength Training (lower body emphasis, core, and light upper body)
We: Movement Training
Th: Low Volume Medicine Ball Work, Strength training (upper emphasis, plus low volume lower)
Fr: Movement Training
Sa: Very light Strength Training (mostly upper and core work)
Su: off completely

If this pitcher was playing the field on non-pitching days, we’d simply drop the movement training and eliminate either the Thursday or Saturday strength training session.

10711126_851815541536218_8932946763214799409_n

This obviously doesn’t include the throwing program component, which we find it a bit different for everyone.  I will say, though, that most of our guys tend to long toss the furthest on Wed/Thu and throw their bullpen on Fri/Sat.  They’d be playing catch on some of the other days, too, of course.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with my approaches to in-season strength and conditioning for college baseball players.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

In-Season Baseball Strength and Conditioning: Part 1

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received literally dozens of emails, Facebook posts/messages, Tweets, and phone calls on the topic of in-season strength and conditioning for baseball players.  While it was a daunting task to try to organize my thoughts on the subject, I was glad to do so, as all these inquiries mean that people are finally starting to “get it:” in-season strength and conditioning is extremely important!

To that end, over the next four days, I’ll outline my general strength and conditioning approach to dealing with position players and pitchers during the season.  Every athlete and every schedule is different, so it might take some tinkering to make this work for you.

First, though, I want to throw out a few quick FYIs, as some of what I “omit” will actually surprise you.  In terms of my in-season strength and conditioning beliefs, I’m different from many people in that:

1. I’m not big on lots of band stuff at the field – I discussed my thoughts on rotator cuff exercises frequency and overall scheduling in Clearing Up the Rotator Cuff Controversy.  In a nutshell, I tend to stick with 2x/week “conventional” rotator cuff exercises (mostly external rotations) and 2x/week rhythmic stabilization drills.  In conjunction with the rest of our overall program – which includes compound upper body strength exercises ( horizontal and vertical pulling exercises, in particular), deceleration catches, core stability drills, lower half strength exercises, soft tissue work, mobility work, etc – we cover all our needs for keeping an arm healthy.  Why on earth would I add more rotator cuff exercises to my program when I’m already increasing throwing volume, intensity, and frequency?  The cuff is already getting abused – so there is no need to crush it any more with daily tubing circuits unless they are incredibly light and just aimed at improving blood flow.

I firmly believe that many pitchers (and position players alike) overuse their arms during a season simply because they add, add, and add more to their program without fully understanding the outrageous eccentric stress that’s placed on the arm during throwing.  And, for those who insist that doing lots of in-season rotator cuff exercises has kept them healthy, I’d argue that this is probably the case because they weren’t that prepared at the end of the off-season.

2. I don’t do much medicine ball work in-season – If you haven’t already watched my video, the Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Continuum, watch it now:

During the season, players are about as far to the “absolute speed” end of the continuum as they can be, as they’re hitting, throwing, and sprinting.  With the overwhelming amount of “accidental” power training taking place, I feel that it’s best to stay at the other end of the spectrum.  You can spend more time in the middle during the off-season.

That said, we do utilize a small amount of medicine ball work during the season.  Usually, it’s predominantly done in the opposite direction of a player’s swing/throw; in other words, a right-handed hitter would perform left handed medicine ball throws.  We might also do a small amount of overhead work just to maintain power within this range of motion (as well as the thoracic spine and shoulder flexion mobility that goes with it).

3. I don’t do any distance running for my guys – There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, as I already barbequed this sacred cow in A New Model for Training Between Starts.  So, this time around, I’ll just be abrasive: coaches who have their baseball players run long distances are either lazy or flat-out stupid (or both).

4. I am a big believer in “less is more” and “quality over quantity” for in-season training – Rarely will an in-season strength training program session last more than 35-40 minutes.  It’s usually roughly 10-14 sets worth of work.  A guy might be in the gym longer than that for foam rolling and targeted mobility drills, though.

5. Volume and intensity should be lower in week 1, but higher for the remaining weeks with in-season strength training programs – I usually keep the volume and intensity lower in the first week of the program to minimize initial soreness.  Then, once the familiarity with the exercises is in place, we can load up a bit more in weeks 2-4 (or 2-6, if you opt to extend the program a bit longer).

6. Strength exercise selection changes a bit in-season, but the basics still apply – We’re still using a lot  of compound, multi-joint strength exercises, but there are a few modifications.

In-season, I tend to utilize more horizontal pulling (rows) than vertical pulling (pull-ups/chin-ups).  We use a lot of vertical pulling throughout the year, but never really go above once a week during the season, as some guys can get a bit cranky in the elbow with the amount of weight it takes to make them challenging.  If you want some of the benefits without the elbow issues, you can always plug in the crossover reverse fly.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I think chin-ups and pull-ups are bad for pitchers.  Far too many coaches have (unsuccessfully) tried to beat that dead horse; let it go, fellas.

Especially with pitchers, I utilize more push-up variations than dumbbell bench pressing during the season.  If we wind up doing three days of horizontal pushing, two will be push-ups and one will be dumbbell pressing.  If we do two days, it’s one of each.  If it’s only one, it’s a push-up.  We have several different variations (as I wrote here and here) from which to choose, so athletes are actually far less likely to get bored with them than with dumbbell pressing, anyway.

7. Don’t overlook maintaining mobility – It’s called “Strength and Conditioning,” but the truth is that we could probably scrap the conditioning part with respect to baseball and replace it with “mobility.”  Guys don’t just get hurt in-season because they lose strength; they get hurt because they lose mobility.  All the eccentric stress leads to significant losses in mobility, as does all the standing around leads athletes to miss out on basic functional movement patterns like squatting and lunging.  Don’t just be a “weights coach;” there are other things to address!  This is probably the primary reason why Assess and Correct has gotten such great reviews among baseball coaches; it's one piece that they were missing!

It took me over a thousand words, but it would appear that I’ve gotten all my prerequisites out of the way.  Tomorrow, we’ll talk about in-season training for the high school baseball player.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

Get Strong by Learning from My Strength and Conditioning Mistakes

We bought our dog, Tank, in October of 2010 – and he’s since gone on to be not only man’s best friend around the house, but also an integral (and entertaining) part of the Cressey Sports Performance experience, as he comes to the gym with me just about every day.

In spite of Tank’s affinity for flashing people, he managed to win adoration of the family of one of our CP athletes to the point that they decided they wanted to get a cream puggle just like him.  Having just spent months housetraining him and trying to get him to sleep through the night, my wife and I had plenty of suggestions for these folks to avoid making the mistakes we made.  I mean, we never told him to eat paint chips, but puppies will be puppies, you know?

Anyway, that family is now all settled with their puppy, and it got me to thinking about the importance of learning from others’ mistakes is in the world of strength and conditioning programs.  If I can help out one puppy owner, I might as well help out the 180,000 unique visitors on this website each month!  With that in mind, here are five strength and conditioning mistakes I corrected that have made a big difference for me:

1. Eating like a pansy in the post-training window – If you’re an up-and-coming lifter or athlete who can benefit from increasing muscle mass (and I definitely was), the post-workout period is not a time when you can skimp on calories.  I really did not start making great progress until I was getting in over a thousand calories between my post-training shake and the meal that took place an hour later – and that was on the light side compared to what I’ve seen with some other guys. I can’t think of many things that drive me crazier than seeing one of our athletes finish a training session – and then sit around in the office for 2-3 hours without eating anything.  I love having them hang out at the gym, but I just want them to do it with calories!

2. Not training for strength soon enough – I'm going to dumb getting bigger down as much as I can, yet still keep it mathematical. You've got to do "muscular damage" and then rebuild.  If you don't do work, you don't get damage. Work = Force x Distance

Unless you plan on growing for the rest of your life (or find magical ways to keep adding range of motion to exercises), the easiest way to positively impact the amount of work you do is to apply more force - or be stronger. To that end, I'll make a bold statement here: for the first two years of lifting, your primary goal should simply be to add weight to the bar (provided you can do so in good technique and without pain).  As long as we're talking about compound strength exercises, you'll be very pleased with the results. We have novice lifters at Cressey Performance who grow like weeds in their first two years of training with us - and I can't say that I've ever had someone ask me about "the pump."  I wish I'd had someone to tell me to shut up when I asked about it when I was 18!

3. Spending too much time doing non-essentials – This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous observation.  I really had no place doing curls, triceps extensions, and other isolation exercises when I hadn’t even come close to putting up good numbers on the important strength exercises. It kept me in the gym too long and interfered with my recovery on the really important stuff. The funny thing is that now that I have gotten a lot stronger, I really don’t have interest in doing much of the isolation stuff anymore – because I realize that the core strength exercises are the ones that really helped me progress.

4. Not being more athletic with my energy systems work – Growing up, I was an avid soccer and tennis player, and as a result of all my time on the field/court, I was reasonably quick and good with changes of direction.  When my early 20s rolled around, I took a step back from those sports to pursue strength training "full time."  A few years later, I was invited to play in a charity basketball game against a bunch of at-the-time Patriots players like Ellis Hobbs, Reche Caldwell, Pierre Woods, and Logan Mankins (among others).  Don't let anyone tell you that NFL guys can't play hoops, because these guys mopped the floor with us. The outcome wasn't altogether surprising, but one thing that did open my eyes was how I just didn't feel as athletic as I used to be in spite of the fact that I'd gotten a lot stronger as compared to my high school years.  I was putting force into the ground, but I wasn't applying it quickly - and I wasn't doing it in planes of motion in which I was comfortable.  Not surprisingly, most of my energy systems work at the time (which really wasn't much) was being done on machines: ellipticals, versa-climbers, rowers, and bikes.  I committed to cutting back on mindless repetitive motion cardio right away - and since then, just about all my energy systems work has been sprinting, strongman-type medleys, change of direction work, slideboard work, and medicine ball circuits (plus just a small amount of Airdyne work). The end result?  A 37.2-inch vertical jump - more than 12 inches better than I was back at the time, and I'm at a higher body weight and just as lean as when I was doing all that "gerbil cardio."  More importantly, I feel a ton more athletic - and I'm more likely to do stupid things for others' amusement around the gym.

5. Not finding a good training crew earlier – I’ve been fortunate to lift with some excellent training partners, from my days on-campus at the University of Connecticut, to South Side Gym, to the guys I lift with at Cressey Performance nowadays.  Before that, though, I was flying solo for quite some time.  Let me tell you: good training partners make a HUGE difference.  They pick you up when you’re dragging, help you select weights, provide spots/handoffs, and create an awesome social atmosphere that actually helps training progress. “Going it alone” doesn’t just refer to having training partners with whom you can lift, though.  It also refers to having professional resources to whom you can turn – whether it’s a massage therapist when your elbows get cranky from all the gripping you do, or someone to help you out with your strength and conditioning programs.  I’m not going to lie: I did some terrible programs back in the day when I didn’t know any better.  If I’d had an unbiased party helping me out, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. That’s one reason why I created The High Performance Handbook.

On one hand, it takes the guesswork out of training by providing the actual strength and conditioning programs as well as an extensive video database to help with technique on all the mobility and strength exercises.  On the other hand, though, I designed it so that it would give folks a lot of wiggle room when it comes to adapting it to their unique goals and needs.  It starts with an easy-to-apply assessment you can use to determine your unique needs.  From there, you've got 4x/week, 3x/week, and 2x/week strength training programs; different supplemental conditioning options; and a unique mobility warm-up for every month of the program.  Problems solved. Click here to learn more about The High Performance Handbook. What were some of your biggest strength and conditioning mistakes?  Share them in the comments section below and you might just help someone from repeating them!

Learn how to deadlift with detailed video when you sign up for our FREE Newsletter!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength Training Programs for the Pros and the Joes: Not as Different as You Might Think

Yesterday, New England Sports Network (NESN) ran a feature on my work with Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox.  In the background of the video, you'll notice several other professional athletes (including a pro soccer player and pro triathlete) doing their thing, too.  What's perhaps more interesting, though, is that you'll even see some general fitness clients getting after it at the same time. It reminded me of an interview Chad Waterbury did with me for his website a while back; the focus was what ordinary folks can learn from professional athletes, and how they're alike/different in the gym.  I think that there are some valuable takeaway points: CW: You work with a lot of high-performance athletes. What are three principles that apply equally to athletes and non-athletes? EC: I think people would be surprised to realize just how similar the Average Joe or Jane is to a professional athlete – both socially and physically. The lay population often sits in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day, but many pro athletes have 4-8 hour flights or 10+ hour bus rides where they’re sitting – and because they’re taller, sitting is even more uncomfortable and problematic.  Like everyone else, they spend time surfing the internet, Skyping, playing video games, and goofing around on Facebook/Twitter.  The advances in technology have hurt everyone from a physical fitness standpoint – but brought the “Pros and the Joes” closer together, believe it or not. They’re also very similar in that they want the most bang for their buck.  Most pro athletes are no different than anyone else in that they want to get in their training, and then go to visit their families, relax, play golf, or whatever else.  They really don’t have interest in putting in six hours per day in training outside of the times when they have to do so (namely, in-season).

All that said, if I had to pick three principles crucial to the success of both populations, they’d be the following: 1.  Realize that consistency is everything. I always tell our clients from all walks of life that the best strength and conditioning programs are ones that are sustainable.  It’s not about working hard for three months and making great progress – only to fall off the bandwagon for a month.  This is absolutely huge for professional athletes who need to maximize progress in the off-season; they just can’t afford to have unplanned breaks in training if they want to improve from year to year. If a program isn’t conducive to your goals and lifestyle, then it isn’t a good program.  That’s why I went out of my way to create 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week strength training options – plus five supplemental conditioning options and a host of exercise modifications – when I pulled Show and Go together; I wanted it to be a very versatile resource.

Likewise, I wanted it to be safe; a program isn’t good if it injures you and prevents you from exercising.  Solid programs include targeted efforts to reduce the likelihood of injury via means like mobility drills, supplemental stretching recommendations, specific progressions, fluctuations in training stress, and alternative strength exercises (“plan B”) in case you aren’t quite ready to execute “Plan A.” 2. You must balance competing demands, and prioritize the ones that are the most pressing at a given time. Using our professional baseball pitchers as an example, their training consists of strength training, mobility drills, medicine ball throws, movement training, and the throwing program (which is near daily in nature).  In the Cressey Performance system, when the throwing program ramps up, the medicine ball work must come down substantially, and the strength training tapers off just a bit.  You simply can’t keep adding sets and reps without subtracting something else and making a tradeoff, as athletes only have a certain amount of recovery capacity, and it’s hard to fine-tune an exact movement like throwing a baseball if you’re fatigued from everything else. Managing competing demands is arguably more challenging in the general population, as their jobs outside the gym are usually more stressful than those that face many professional athletes – meaning that the Joes and the Janes have less recovery capacity with which to work.  It seems logical that when you add something to a program, you have to subtract something else – but I’m constantly amazed at how many people decide to just keep adding more volume when they can’t lose fat or gain muscle mass fast enough.  Sometimes, you just need to change the composition of the program, not add more and more, thereby creating three-hour marathon training sessions. This leads to my next point… 3. The success comes from the overall program, not just the individual parts. In other words, synergy is everything. The aforementioned pitchers can’t just go out and start a throwing program after doing nothing for three months.  Rather, they need to work to enhance their mobility and get stronger, more reactive, and more powerful first.  If they skip these important steps, they increase their likelihood of injury, make it harder to re-acquire a skilled movement, and reduce the likelihood of improvement.

In the general population, a good strength and conditioning program consists of tremendous interdependencies.  Your deadlift technique and strength depends on the training you’ve done in the previous month, week, and day – and how thorough and targeted your mobility warm-up (or lack thereof, in many unfortunate cases) was prior to that day’s training session.  Those trainees who have the best results are the ones that line everything up – from nutrition, to strength training, to mobility exercises, to movement training, to metabolic conditioning, to recovery protocols. CW: It’s common for people to think they’re advanced when they’re really not. Can you mention a few things a pro athlete typically does that a weekend warrior shouldn’t do? EC: I would strongly discourage non-professional athletes from holding shirtless press conferences in their driveways while exercising during contract holdouts.

Then again, I wouldn’t really recommend that to Terrell Owens or any professional athlete, for that matter, but I digress… To be honest, in the context of resistance training, a lot of professional athletes aren’t really as advanced as you might think, especially after a long season that’s taken its toll on them.  Many of them have a ton of similarities with our general fitness clients – but just have different exercise contraindications and energy systems needs. I think the better comparison would be between novice lifters (less than one year of resistance training) and those with years and years under their belt.  They have to do things quite a bit differently. As a first example, the novice lifter can handle a lot more volume because he (or she, of course) is relatively neurally inefficient.  If this lifter did the volume of an advanced athlete, he might actually undertrain on volume (and possibly overdo it on intensity to the point that it’d interfere with picking up appropriate technique). Second, a really advanced lifter will often need to deload on intensity – meaning that when it’s time for a “backoff week” – he’ll often keep the sets and reps up, but take a lot of weight on the bar. It’s just about getting reps in.  A novice lifter, on the other hand, is better off keeping the intensity up and dropping the number of reps.

Third, a novice lifter can often be more aggressive in terms of caloric intake because there is such a large window of adaptation ahead in terms of muscle weight gain.  I gained 50 pounds in my first year of lifting, but nowadays – even though I’m five times as strong as I was then – if I can go up 3-4 quality pounds a year, I’m thrilled.  Surely, lifters are the opposite ends of the experience continuum can’t have similar caloric needs – even if the more experienced ones are heavier.  Skinny novice guys can sometimes get away with eating like absolute crap as long as there are enough total calories  – and still end up getting bigger.  I certainly don’t advise it, but it’s one more way to show that novice and experienced lifters are horses of different colors, and that you have to be honest with yourself on where you fall on this continuum so that you train and eat optimally. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
Name
Email
Read more

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.

HPH-main

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!

Name
Email
Read more

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.

HPH-main

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength Training Programs: Is Cross-Training Necessary?

As I noted earlier in the week, I’m two weeks in to the new Lean Hybrid Muscle program and really enjoying it.  It’s a pretty significant change of pace from what I might call my normal programming that’s geared toward predominantly increasing strength and overall athleticism – but it’s working extremely well.  As the saying goes, “The best program is the one you’re not on.” This temporary paradigm shift got me to thinking that it'd be a good idea to bring in the LHM creators, Mike Westerdal and Elliott Hulse, in for an interview to talk about whether this kind of cross-training is necessary in a strength and conditioning program.  Here goes...

EC: Whenever you see people who are successful across multiple disciplines, you look for commonalities in the way that they prepare themselves.  Mike, you’ve done well for yourself in powerlifting, and Elliott, you’re an accomplished strongman competitor.  What do you believe to be the most important factors governing one’s success in strength sports?  I figured that before we talk about what might need to be changed from time-to-time, we ought to talk about what should always stay the same. EH: In my experience there are only a handful of tired and true principles that govern success and achievement in all areas of life.  Whether you are a strength athlete or a stay-at-home-mom, the same principles apply.  Like Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “methods are many, but principles are few.” So, instead of spouting off some of my training methods here, I will share three foundation principles that I tend to value and refer to most when taking aim towards any particular goal - strength or otherwise. The first is CLARITY.  It is paramount that we know exactly what effect we would like our actions to produce.  You cannot hit a target that you can’t see. The next is COMMITMENT.  Most people have a vague and fuzzy idea of what they want, but even worse is that most think of these things as “nice-to-haves,” as opposed to “I-WILL-haves.”  The difference between someone who is “trying” to win because it would be nice and the person who DOES win is commitment.  Winners commit 100% to reaching their goal.  They never have a backdoor to escape and never take “no” for an answer.

The third principle governing one's success is DISCIPLINE!  I once heard that discipline is, “doing what you have to do, whether you feel like it or not.”  I like to think of myself as a robot.  Once I set my mind on a particular target, I must then put fickle emotion aside and continue to do everyday what I set out to do from the get-go...whether I “feel like it or not.” MW:  Elliott is a tough act to follow when it comes to success.  A lot of people - myself included - like listening to him not only because of his strength and conditioning knowledge but also because of his general leadership when it comes to personal development in other areas of life as well. Eric, this a great question.  I’ve actually had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of different athletes for a book I published at Critical Bench.  It included in MMA fighter, powerliftes, strongman competitors, bodybuilders, pro athletes and industry experts.  I’ve thought a lot about this and really tried to figure out the common denominators when it comes to excelling in sports.

It almost never has to do with an exact training method or style.  Guys get huge with heavy lifting and guys get huge with volume training.  Powerlifters have attained world class status having trained with  Westside as with Sheiko training.  What it really comes down to is a few other factors that I’ll list below: -You have to surround yourself with other successful people: people that are already in a place where you want to go.  If you hang around with a bunch of lazy deadbeats you’re going to get dragged down with them.  Instead, find people that are the best at what they do and try to make them a part of your life. -To take this a step further you have to visualize yourself or imagine yourself becoming what you want before it’s ever happened.  If you don’t already think you can bench press 600 pounds there’s no way that will ever manifest itself in real life until you brain can accept it as reality. Now you may think this is hocus pocus talk, but when they asked Joe Montana what it felt like to win the Super Bowl.  He said it felt like the other 300 times I won it.  The reporter said, “300 times?”  “That’s right” Montana replied, “I’ve been winning the Super Bowl in my backyard since I was 12-years old.”

-The next thing I see from a lot of successful strength athletes is sacrifice.  Many things in life are possible, but you have to decide if what it takes to reach that goal is worth the sacrifice.  The energy you exert on a certain sport may affect your energy levels for other areas of your life.  During a heavy powerlifting cycle, I’m toast even when I’m not training.  I find myself resting a lot more.  So you have to ask yourself.  What exactly do you want and are you willing to do what it takes to achieve the goal?  So guys who get to the very top level often sacrifice things like certain social events, for example. -My cousin is a successful business owner and recently gave me a valuable lesson that I believe can be applied not only to business, but also to strength sports.  He told me to just keep showing up.  It sounds pretty simple but most people don’t have the consistency to just keep showing up and stick with something until the end.  Lots of small steps over a long period of time add up. Unfortunately, it’s very rare that you’ll find a secret shortcut or magic bullet.  Just keep showing up and over time you’ll get better. -My last point is similar to my first point.  I mentioned surrounding yourself with successful people.  You also need to eliminate negativity from your life and your training.  If people are complaining about bad luck, aches, pains, circumstances and a host of other problems, you can’t let that stuff get into your head.  I swear these things happen to these people because that’s what they think about and talk about all the time.  Why not spend your time with people who are focused on where they are going and what they want?

EC:  Great points - and definitely a lot of stuff that I've seen in my successful clients and training partners, too. Back to the subject at-hand, though: "cross-training" within a strength training program.  How often do you guys intentionally deviate from your “normal” programming – whether it’s to shake things up for specific physiological reasons or just to get a little mental break? MW:  As a competitive powerlifter I trained the same way for several years straight.  This is not the fault of the sport, but I was doing the same kind of training for too long.  I believe that the lack of conditioning and doing the same strength exercises for too long eventually led to me gaining some unnecessary weight and even contributed to a lower back and shoulder injury. Now, I love powerlifting and if your only goal is one-rep max strength, it’s the way to go. I wanted to drop a weight class, heal up some injuries, and get some of my athleticism back, though, so it felt good to try a more hybrid program.  If you compete in any specific sport you need to train for that sport.  However, at this stage of my life I have multiple goals and feel that training for them at the same time is working since I’m not trying to be the absolute best at any skill set.  I do want to compete again and when I do I’ll have to cut back on the conditioning and hypertrophy work and focus more on nervous system training again.  For now, though, I’m really enjoying the feeling of being more well rounded and athletic.

EH: As a professional strongman I had followed a pretty similar program of power-building mixed with strongman implements for about 3 years straight, never “mixing it up.”  This not only led to weaknesses in some areas of overall health and performance, but also created the muscular imbalances that caused me to tear my biceps tendon last spring. Now, I am committed to working towards multiple performance goals within 12-24 month periods so as to avoid the lopsidedness that caused my injury.  For example, I have gone from competing as a pro strongman to running a 10 mile “psycho race” called the Tough Mudder this spring.  Next, I am going to qualify for the Crossfit games before building my lifts back up to compete in a raw power lifting meet in the winter. This may sound crazy to most people, but I’m going to give it a try. It doesn’t mean that my new approach is the right one for everyone, but I’d like to see if it is possible to excel in multiple fitness qualities at once.  And I do recognize balance as a foundational principle as well. EC: How long do these “cross-training” periods typically last? EH: If you mean “periods” as in using hybrid training for only a portion of time during the year, then I would say “forever” – unless you are a professional athlete or bodybuilder who needs to excel in one fitness quality over another in order to compete in your sport. If building a leaner, more functional and athletic physique is your goal, then I invite you to use this type of training all the time.  The beauty of hybrid training is that you can adjust your parameters in order to emphasize one quality over another. For example, if building muscle mass is your goal, then you would continue to use more strength and hypertrophy work over conditioning – but without totally ignoring the latter.

MW: That would depend on who you’re asking.  If you compete in a sport with a specific skill set like powerlifting this would be more an off-season conditioning program to do for a couple months.  I see a lot of powerlifters train 12 weeks for a meet followed by two weeks completely off.  Of course, there are deload weeks in the meet cycle as well.  I’ve seen guys throw together three of these 12-week cycles back-to-back.  After that, they usually know they need a break or their body forces them to slow down.  Adding in some cross training workouts or hybrid training could be beneficial at this time for a couple months. Now if you don’t compete in a specialized sport I truly believe you can train “Hybrid Style” all year long.  You’ll feel good, look good and have great conditioning.  If you decide to compete in any one area of fitness you’ll need to focus more on that area, though, to be competitive. EC: How about when you return to your “conventional” programming?  What kind of favorable adaptations (or unfavorable de-adaptations) have you seen? MW: The biggest advantage I can see when returning to powerlifting would be injury prevention.  With the different programming, I get a chance to work on any imbalances and heal up any nagging injuries.  The health benefits are there too.  The reduction in body fat and the cardiovascular conditioning helps me perform better on dynamic training days. The down side is that my one-rep max strength takes a bit of a hit and I have to get the nervous system re-adjusted to doing really heavy weights.  I am really glad that Lean Hybrid Muscle has powerbuilding days so that I can maintain some strength. In my case, coming from a powerlifting style of training, strength was down a bit.  However, for someone that has never trained with triples, doubles. or singles they could absolutely increase strength while following this program. EH: The fact is that if you are working toward excellence in one particular fitness quality and you incorporate too much training from a contradictory quality, your performance will suffer.  I make no claims otherwise and my experience tells me it’s true.

So, the leaner more conditioned Elliott Hulse no longer has the strength to log press 365 lbs over head, I can no longer front squat 455 lbs.  So, strength has been lost. However, things are far more balanced, where now I can only front squat about 365, I can also run a mile under seven minutes and I don’t bend over panting for air after climbing a flight of stairs, like the bigger, stronger version of me did. Ha! EC: Not a bad tradeoff at all! Thanks so much for your time, fellas. For more information on Mike and Elliott's strength and conditioning programs, check out Lean Hybrid Muscle. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a detailed deadlift technique tutorial!
Name
Email
Read more

Does a Normal Elbow Really Exist?

I've written quite a bit in the past about how diagnostic imaging (x-rays, MRIs, etc) doesn't always tell the entire story, and that incidental findings are very common.  This applies to the lower back, shoulders, and knees (and surely several other joints).  The scary thing, though, is that we see these crazy structural abnormalities not just in adults, but in kids, too.  Last month, I highlighted research that showed that 64% of 14-15 year-old athletes have structural abnormalities in their knees - even without the presence of symptoms.  Just a month later, newer research is showing that the knee isn't the only hinge joint affected; young throwers' elbows are usually a structural mess as well.  In an American Journal of Sports Medicine study of 23 uninjured, asymptomatic high school pitchers (average age of 16), researchers found the following: Three participants (13%) had no abnormalities. Fifteen individuals (65%) had asymmetrical anterior band ulnar collateral ligament thickening, including 4 individuals who also had mild sublime tubercle/anteromedial facet edema. Fourteen participants (61%) had posteromedial subchondral sclerosis of the ulnotrochlear articulation, including 8 (35%) with a posteromedial ulnotrochlear osteophyte, and 4 (17%) with mild posteromedial ulnotrochlear chondromalacia. Ten individuals (43%) had multiple abnormal findings in the throwing elbow. For me, the 35% with the osteophytes (and chondromalacia) are the biggest concern.  Thickening of the ulnar collateral ligament isn't surprising at all, but marked osseous (bone) abnormalities is a big concern.

Also, as a brief, but important aside, this study was done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota - which isn't exactly the hotbed of baseball activity that you get down in the South.  Recent research also shows that players in Southern (warm weather) climates have decreased shoulder internal rotation range of motion and external rotation strength compared to their Northern (cold weather) climate counterparts. In other words, I'll be money that the numbers reported in this study are nothing compared to the young pitchers who are constantly abused year-round in the South. The next time you think to yourself that all young athletes - especially throwers - can be managed the same, think again.  Every body is unique - and that's why I'm so adamant about the importance of assessing young athletes. It's one reason why I filmed the Everything Elbow in-service, which would be a great thing to watch if you're someone who manages pitchers.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a detailed deadlift technique tutorial!
Name
Email
Read more

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!
Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 12 13 14 15 16 17
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series