Home Posts tagged "strength and conditioning program" (Page 16)

Strength Training Programs: The Higher Up You Go, the More Hot Air You Encounter

A buddy of mine - we'll call him Bobby Ballsofsteel - has been really working at it lately in a dedicated push to pack on a little muscle mass with his strength training program.  He's somewhat of a classic "hardgainer" who needs to really forcefeed himself to gain every ounce. Nonetheless, Bobby's busted his butt in the gym (I train with him, so I know) and the kitchen over the past few months and has gone from 200 to 210 pounds.  This is a huge deal, as we aren't talking about "newbie" gains; we're talking about a guy who had already gone from 160 to 200 over the previous two years. Bobby was super-intimidated about starting a strength and conditioning program back in 2007 because, although he was a great athlete, it was unfamiliar territory for him because he immediately become the little dog at the pound. It took a lot of guts to start things up - something we see with a lot of people from different walks of life who begin exercise programs with motivation and a desire to change, but a long way to go and a fair amount of intimidation and embarrassment in their minds about where they stand with respect to the challenge ahead.  Whether you're an elite athlete who has never trained in an organized setting, an untrained 14-year old baseball player, or a 55-year-old female who is just getting into exercising to drop body fat, the first step is the toughest - and it's our job as fitness professionals to make this first step more manageable and less daunting. The problem is that we have outside influences with which to compete. With many people embarking on a strength training program, there are other people in their lives - maybe it's relatives, spouses, employers, best friends, or others - who for whatever reason go out of their way to find fault with people for making the decision to start exercising or eating healthy.  In many cases, these "disablers" sabotage people's efforts at the exact time when they need the most support from those close to them. Usually, the ones doing the "disabling" are simply insecure about themselves.  Maybe they are just comfortable eating poorly and not exercising, and they perceive it as a threat when someone close to them starts changing these habits, as it may have a spillover effect to them.  Or, perhaps they're deconditioned and just don't want to be alone - so it's easier to try to bring someone else down a peg than elevate themselves.  Maybe it's just that the world wouldn't be safe with only one overweight superhero as opposed to two.  Batman wouldn't just leave Robin out to dry like that.

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And that's how we come back to my buddy, Mr. Ballsofsteel, and his great progress of late.  Bobby came to the gym royally pissed off the other morning, and proceeded to tell me the story of how he had met up with some of his best (long-time) friends the previous night.  While it had been good to see all of them, one of these friends - we'll call him "Tommy the Tool" - went out of his way to remark (in front of the entire group) that Bobby had "gotten awfully big suspiciously quickly."  Effectively, he was implying that Bobby was using steroids (which is clearly not the case if you ask anyone who has seen him regularly throughout this time period).  The accuser (or shall we say "disabler?") practically tried to turn it into a group intervention. You can imagine what an awkward position this created for Bobby.  On one hand, if he had gotten defensive in light of all the hard work he'd put in to do things the right way, they'd have thought he had something about which he should be defensive.  On the other hand, if he had just shrugged it off, they'd have thought that the accusation is true and that Bobby just wanted to change the subject.  Awkward situation, indeed.

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Awkward situation aside, there is a "not-so-coincidental coincidence" that emerged in my eyes as Bobby told me the story.  Apparently, Tommy the Tool presented to this gathering about 15 pounds of "not-so-good weight" heavier himself because he'd been on the road for work, eating poorly and not exercising. It's funny how our disabler chose to call someone out and attempt to delegitimize someone else's progress at the exact same time when he was feeling the worst about himself.  Actually, it's not really "funny."  It's more "predictable" and "pathetic."  You try to take someone down a peg to make your unfit, unhealthy status quo feel more acceptable; it's easier to take when everyone is miserable.  Or, maybe it simply takes the attention off you, Tommy the Tool.

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This happens in fitness, athletics, business, academics, and countless other components of our everyday lives.  I always tell our athletes that the higher up you go, the more hot air you are going to encounter.  Get negative people out of your life and surround yourself with those who are not only supportive of your goals and your progress, but can actually help to set you up for more success. In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, one message from authors Chip and Dan Heath is that you will almost never effect quick change a person, but you can always work to change the situation that governs how a person acts - and do so relatively transiently.

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As an example, we've had numerous high school athletes who have completely changed their family's nutrition for the better by applying the principles they've learned in nutrition consultations at Cressey Performance.  It isn't that their parents didn't want to be healthy prior to that point; it was just that the situation in which they cooked and ate was different.  Once a young athlete came home excited about nutrition armed with knowledge and recipes, though, their supportive parental instincts enabled him to adopt these new habits, and his enthusiasm and newfound education and resources enabled them to adopt new practices for the family.  They were still the same people; they just happened to have new situations. It's why I think our semi-private training model at Cressey Performance works so well.  Sure, it makes training more affordable, and the strength and conditioning programs are obviously very individualized.  However, I think that most important thing we've done is creates an unconditionally positive training environment where people can support each other - even if they may have different fitness/athletic goals.  Success is both visible and encouraged.

 

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3 Things Everyone Should Know About the Shoulder

A while back, I sent off an email to my good friend Alwyn Cosgrove about our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set, and he asked me what I thought were the three most important things that folks - from fitness professionals to regular ol' weekend warriors - ought to know with respect to the shoulder.  Here were the first concepts that came to mind: 1. You should NEVER be intimidated when you hear/see the words "rotator cuff tear" or "labral tear." Why?  Because if you are training clients, you are absolutely, positively already training people who have these issues but are 100% asymptomatic.  Some interesting research: Miniaci et al. (2003) found that 79% of professional baseball pitchers - the people who put the most stress on their shoulders on the planet - actually had "abnormal labrum" features.  They concluded that "magnetic resonance imaging of the shoulder in asymptomatic high performance throwing athletes reveals abnormalities that may encompass a spectrum of 'nonclinical' findings." Meanwhile, rotator cuff tears often go completely unnoticed. Sher et al. (1995) took MRIs on the shoulders of 96 asymptomatic subjects, and found cuff tears in 34% of cases, and 54% of those older than 60.  Meanwhile, another Miniaci study (1995) found ZERO completely normal rotator cuffs in those under the age of 50 out of a sample size of 30 shoulders.

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What's my point?  Both the people who are in pain AND those who have absolutely no pain can have disastrous looking shoulder MRIs.  So, in many cases, it is something other than just the structural deficit that causes certain people to experience pain.  To me, that difference is how they move. A torn labrum may become symptomatic in a thrower with poor shoulder internal rotation.  Or, a partial thickness cuff tear my reach the pain threshold in a lifter who doesn't have adequate scapular stability. In short, a MRI report doesn't tell you everything there is to know about a shoulder - and you need to assume that a lot of your clients are already jacked up. 2. When assessing a shoulder, everything starts with total motion. In healthy shoulders, total motion - which comes from adding internal rotation and external rotation - should be the same on the right and left side.  This "arc" may occur in a different place on each shoulder, but as long as it's symmetrical from side-to-side, you're off to a good start - and that's when you work further down the chain to see what's going on with scapula stability, thoracic spine mobility, etc.

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3. 100% of all shoulder problems involve scapular dysfunction. The interaction of the glenoid fossa of the scapula (socket) and humeral head (ball) is what allows the glenohumeral joint (shoulder) to do what it needs to do.  However, most individuals have some form of shortness (e.g., pec minor, levator scapulae) or weakness (e.g., serratus anterior, lower trapezius) of muscles working on the scapula.  These inefficiencies alter glenohumeral alignment and increases stress on the rotator cuff, biceps tendon, labrum, and glenohumeral ligaments.  Identifying and addressing scapular issues is a key step in preventing shoulder pain. For more information, check out the Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Acts of Commission vs. Omission

At the last Winter Olympics, Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer missed out on a gold medal because his coach, Gerard Kemkers, directed him into the wrong lane part way through the race.  Kramer finished the race with an Olympic record time - four seconds ahead of his nearest competitor - but was immediately disqualified because of an incorrect lane change with eight laps remaining on his long-time coach's cue. In the aftermath of the disqualification, Kemkers obviously came under a ton of scrutiny.  After all, he committed a pretty big coaching mistake - and it'll probably become a huge part of his legacy, as unfortunate as it is.

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Here is a guy who has likely helped thousands of speed skaters over the years, presumably devoting countless hours to research, coaching, and becoming the best he could be - both as a coach and an athlete (he won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics).  And, as Kramer noted, it is hard to argue with the success Kemkers helped him achieve:  "Three times world champion, four times European champion, so many World Cups and Olympic gold in the 5,000 meters." In the process, Kemkers had to have omitted little to nothing; otherwise, he wouldn't have been coaching at such a high level. Had Kemkers never endeavored to get to a high level - or taken shortcuts to get there - there would have been countless omissions along the way: gaps in his knowledge, an inability to befriend athletes, and a fundamental misappreciation for what it takes to compete at a high level.  He would have been mediocre at best.

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Kemkers' mistake was an act of commission, not omission. Meanwhile, millions of "armchair" quarterbacks around the world will criticize him for being an idiot, when in reality, the opportunity to make this mistake might never have come along if he hadn't spent so much time preparing to not be an idiot. Speedskating isn't really our thing here in the United States, so let's apply this to something that better fits our existing schema: ACL injuries in female athletes.  We know ACL tears are extremely common in female athletes, particularly those participating in basketball, gymnastics, and soccer.  I actually recall reading that the average NCAA women's soccer team has one ACL tear every year, and that typically, 1 in 50 female NCAA basketball players will blow out an ACL in a given season.  These numbers may be a bit dated now, but you get the point: if you don't train to prevent these injuries, you're omitting an insanely valuable initiative that protects your athletes...and mascots.

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Now, we need to see another "ACL Injury Prevention Protocol" on Pubmed like I need to experience another Tony Gentilcore Techno Hour.  In other words, there are plenty of them out there, and we know what kind of strength and conditioning programs work; it is just about execution. So, let's take your typical strength and conditioning coach who puts his female athletes through everything he should to protect them from ACL injuries - but one girl drops a weight on her foot and breaks a toe to miss the rest of the season. Had he omitted external loading from his strength training program, this never would have happened - but he probably would have had four times as many ACL tears as broken toes and his athletes wouldn't have performed as well.  Here, an act of omission would have been far worse than an act of commission - just like we saw with Kemkers.  This isn't always the case, but it's important to realize that two kinds of mistakes occur, and sometimes you're better being proactive and making a mistake than you are ignoring a responsibility and just keeping your fingers crossed. It's been said before that strength and conditioning programs are both a science and an art - and the art is interpreting what to leave out and what to include in light of risk-reward for each unique athlete.  For instance, a front squat is a fantastic exercise from a scientific standpoint, but on the art side of things, it may not be appropriate for an athlete whose spine doesn't like axial loading.  Or, it may be a problem if an athlete hasn't been front squatting, and introducing it right before competition would cause soreness that might be counterproductive to performance. Think about how this applies to the next strength and conditioning program you write, and the next client/athlete you coach. Related Posts Risk-Reward in Training Athletes and Clients Why Wait to Repair an ACL? Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Efficiency May Be All Wrong…

In my strength and conditioning writing, I throw the term "efficient" around quite a bit; in fact, it's even in the title of our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set.  I'm sure that some people have taken this to mean that we're always looking for efficiency in our movement.  And, certainly, when it comes to getting from point A to point B in the context of sporting challenges, the most efficient way is generally the best. And, just think about strength training programs where lifters simply squat, bench press, and deadlift to improve powerlifting performance.  The goal is to get as efficient in those three movements as possible. And, you can look at NFL combine preparation programs as another example.  Guys will spend months practicing picture-perfect technique for the 40-yard dash.  They might not even get faster in the context of applicable game speed, but they get super efficient at the test.

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However, the most "efficient" way is not always the right way. In everyday life, efficiency for someone with poor posture means picking up a heavy box with a rounded back, as it's the pattern to which they're accustomed, and therefore less "energy expensive."  This would simply prove to be an efficient way to get injured!  I'd rather lift things safely and inefficiently.

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And, take those who run long distances in hopes of losing fat as another example.  The research has actually shown that runners burn fewer calories for the same given distance after years of running improves their efficiency.  While this improvement is relatively small, it absolutely stands to reason that folks would be smart to get as inefficient as possible in their training to achieve faster fat loss.  In other words, change modalities, intensities, durations, and other acute programming variables. Training exclusively for efficiency on a few lifts might make you better at those lifts, but it's also going to markedly increase your risk of overuse injuries.  I can say without wavering that we'd see a lot fewer knee and lower back injuries in powerlifters if more of them would just mix in some inefficient single-leg training into their strength training programs.  And, shoulders would get a lot healthier if these specialists would include more inefficient rowing variations and rotator cuff strength exercises. In the world of training for athletic performance, it's important to remember that many (but not all) athletes perform in unpredictable environments - so simply training them to be efficient on a few lifts fails to fully prepare them for what they're actually face in competition.  A strength and conditioning program complete with exercise variety and different ranges-of-motion,  speeds of motion, and magnitudes of loading provides athletes with a richer proprioceptive environment.

In other words, inefficiency in strength and conditioning programs can actually facilitate better performance and a reduced risk of injury.

Taken all together, it's safe to say that we want inefficiency in our training, but efficiency in our performance - provided that this efficiency doesn't involve potentially injurous movement patterns. Related Posts Why I Don't Like 5x5 Strength Training Programs Weight Training Programs: The Basics, but with Variety Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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“My Coach Says I Shouldn’t Lift…”

I got this question in person from the parent of a new athlete the other day and thought I'd turn it into a blog post, as I've received the email before on many occasions. Q: I read with great interest your blog on Crossfit for Baseball, but my question would be what your response would be to a coach that insists that baseball players shouldn't lift weights PERIOD?  My son's baseball coach is completely against it. A:  This is definitely going to be one of those "where to even begin" responses, but I'll do my best.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll start with a quote directly from my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training: "...resistance training exercises performed on stable surfaces have been demonstrated effective in numerous research studies with respect to improving a variety of athletic qualities, including:
  • muscular strength (5)
  • power (5)
  • aerobic endurance (53)
  • running efficiency (54)
  • anaerobic endurance (5)
  • rate of force development (66,90)
  • hypertrophy (5)
  • reactive strength (66,90)
  • agility (47)
These qualities transfer to improved performance in a variety of sporting tasks, including vertical jump (74), throwing velocity (79), sprinting speed (22), and running economy (53)." (FYI, these numbers are references from the e-book, so if any of you would like the exact studies, please just request them in the comments section) Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that your coach IS NOT looking to field a team that lacks agility, sprinting speed, jumping prowess, throwing velocity, rate of force development (think of a catcher's pop time).  In fact, even those who are clinging to a worthless training initiative like long-distance running for pitchers can get closer to their chosen training effect (as silly as it is) from lifting! Taking this a step further, we know that resistance training can enhance immune and endocrine function, so players will get sick less often and feel better when game time rolls around. And, just as importantly, remember that resistance training is one of the foundations of modern physical therapy.  Would your coach tell a physical therapist that resistance training as part of a rehabilitation program was inappropriate? Of course not!  How in the world it is within his scope of practice to tell a kid that lifting is bad for him - either in terms of increasing injury potential or decreasing performance - is completely beyond me.  Throwing a baseball is the single-fastest motion in sports; you simply don't decelerate 7,500 degrees/second of humeral internal rotation without at least a bit of muscular contribution. And, let's not forget that an ideal strength and conditioning program encompasses a lot more than just strength exercises. It includes good self massage work (foam rollers, etc), mobility training, sprinting/agility/plyos, and much, much more.  It begins with a detailed assessment to determine what mobility or stability deficits may lead to injury down the road.  It may also be the only avenue through which an athlete learns proper nutrition. The fundamental problem is that many baseball coaches think of garbage like this when they hear the words "lifting weights:"

Can someone please tell me how my "biceps will develop" with this?  Only at "Expert Village" does the biceps EXTEND the elbow.  Yikes.

Ouch.

The take-home message is that a lot of coaches think that lifting programs are either a) a waste of time or b) flat-out dangerous.  Sadly, as the videos above demonstrate, in many cases, they're right. However, completely contraindicating lifting can really stunt the development of players and predispose them to injuries.  Throwing is dangerous when done incorrectly, and so are sprinting, fielding ground balls, and taking batting practice.  We don't contraindicate those, though, do we?  We educate athletes on how to participate in these training initiatives properly.

I can tell you that at Cressey Performance, each one of our pro baseball players lifts four times a week, throws the medicine ball 2-3 times a week, and does supplemental movement training 2-3 days per week during the off-season - and they continue lifting during the season (at a lower frequency and volume).  This is true of both position players and pitchers.

Our high school guys get after it as well; I don't know of many other private sector facilities in the country who have eight high school guys throwing 90mph+ before the age of 18 (with several more right on the cusp of this milestone).  Something is working.

And, beyond just the direct training benefits of this system, there is something to be said for the camaraderie strength and conditioning does for teammates on top of regular practices.  The fact that kids actually requested this says volumes!

Hopefully, blogs like this - and bright coaches who are "in the know" - will help to spread the word about what safe, effective training is - and where to get it.

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Crossfit for Baseball?

I've received a lot of emails just recently (as well as some in-person questions) asking me what I think of Crossfit for strength and conditioning programs with baseball players and, more specifically, pitchers.

Let me preface this email with a few qualifying statements.  First, the only exercise "system" with which I agree wholeheartedly is my own.  Cressey Sports Performance programming may be similar in some respects to those of everyone from Mike Boyle, to Louis Simmons, to Ron Wolforth, to the Crossfit folks - but taken as a whole, it's entirely unique to me.  In other words, I will never agree completely with anyone (just ask my wife!).

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Second, in spite of the criticism Crossfit has received from some people I really respect, I do feel that there are some things they're doing correctly.  For starters, I think that the camaraderie and enthusiasm that typifies their training groups is fantastic; anything that gets people (who might otherwise be sedentary) motivated to exercise is a plus.  Moreover, they aren't proponents of steady-state cardio for fat loss, and they tend to gravitate toward compound movements.  So, good on them for those favorable traits. Additionally, I know some outstanding coaches who run Crossfit franchises, so their excellent skill sets may be overshadowed by what less prepared coaches are doing simply because they have the same affiliation.

However, there are several issues that concern me with applying a Crossfit mentality to the baseball world:

1) The randomness of the "workout of the day" is simply not appropriate for a sport that has quite possibly the most specific sport-imposed asymmetries in the world of athletics.  I've written about these asymmetries in the past, and they can only be corrected with specific corrective training modalities.

I'm reminded of this constantly at this time of year, as we get new baseball players at all levels now that seasons are wrapping up. When a player presents with a 45-degree glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, a prominent scapular dyskinesis, terrible right thoracic rotation, a big left rib flair, a right hip that's stuck in adduction, and a complete lack of rotary stability, the last thing he needs to do is a 15-minute tri-set of cleans, kipping pull-ups, and push-ups - following by some 400m sprints. It not only undermines specificity of exercise selection, but also the entire concept of periodization.

Getting guys strong isn't hard.  Neither is getting them powerful or building better endurance.  Finding the right mix to accomplish all these initiatives while keeping them healthy is the challenge.

2) The energy systems development found in Crossfit is inconsistent with the demands of baseball.  I wrote extensively about my complete and utter distaste for distance running in the baseball world, and while Crossfit doesn't go this far, in my eyes, anything over 60yds is "excessive distance" for baseball guys.  Most of my guys sprint two times a week during the off-season, and occasionally we'll go to three with certain athletes.  Let's just say that elite sprinters aren't doing Crossfit, and the energy systems demands of baseball players aren't much different than those of elite sprinters.

3) I have huge concerns about poor exercise technique in conditions of fatigue in anyone, but these situations concern me even more in a population like baseball players that has a remarkably high injury rate as-is.  The fact that 57% of pitchers suffer some sort of shoulder injury during each season says something.  Just think of what that rate is when you factor in problems in other areas, too!  The primary goal should not be entertainment or variety (or "muscle confusion," for all the morons in pro baseball who call P90X their "hardcore" off-season program).  Rather, the goals should be a) keeping guys on the field and b) safe performance enhancement strategies (in that order).

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As an example, all I need to do is look back on a program we used in one of our first pro pitchers back for the off-season last fall.  He had a total of 20 pull-up and 64 push-up variation reps per week (in addition to some dumbbell bench pressing and loads of horizontal pulling/scapular stability/cuff work).  This 84-rep figure might be on the low-end of a Crossfit program for a single day.  Just like with throwing, it's important to do things RIGHT before even considering doing them A LOT.

4) Several of the exercises in typical Crossfit programs (if there is such a thing) concern me in light of what we know about baseball players.  I'll cover this in a lot more detail in an article within the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that most have significant shoulder (if not full-body) laxity (acquired and congenital), abnormal labral features, partial thickness supraspinatus tears, poor scapular upward rotation, retroversion (gives rise to greater external rotation), and diminished rotator cuff strength in the throwing shoulder (particularly after a long season).  Most pro pitchers will have more than 190 degrees of total motion at the shoulder, whereas many of the general population folks I encounter rarely exceed 160 degrees.

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In short, the shoulders you are training when working with baseball players (and pitchers, in particular) are not the same as the ones you see when you walk into a regular ol' gym.  Want proof? Back in 2007, on my first day working with a guy who is now a middle reliever in the big leagues, I started to teach him to front squat.  He told me that with only the bar across his shoulder girdle, he felt like his humerus was going to pop out of the socket.  Not surprisingly, he could contort his spine and wrists like a 14-year-old female gymnast.  This laxity helps make him a great pitcher, but it would destroy him in a program where even the most conservative exercises are done to the point that fatigue compromises ideal form.  And, let's be honest; if I was dumb enough to let someone with a multi-million dollar arm do this, I'd have agents and GMs and athletic trainers from a lot of major league systems coming after me with baseball bats!

5) Beyond just "acts of commission" with inappropriate exercise selection and volume, there are also "acts of omission."  For example, a rotational sport like baseball requires a lot of dedicated work to address thoracic spine and hip mobility and anti-extension and anti-rotatoin core stability.  If you exhaust your training time and recovery capacity with other things, there may not be enough time or energy to pay attention to these important components.

All that said, I would encourage anyone who deals with baseball players to learn to borrow bits and pieces from a variety of methods available today.   Along the way, take into account the unique characteristics of the overhead throwing athlete and manage accordingly.  Simply saying "I'm a Crossfit guy"  and adhering to an approach that was never intended for a baseball population does a huge disservice to the athletes that count on you to bring them the most up-to-date, cutting-edge training practices available.

If you're interested in learning more about some of the asymmetries and training techniques I noted above, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Optimal Shoulder Performance, where both Mike Reinold and I go into some detail on assessment and corrective exercise for pitchers in this seminar (and there's also a lot more fantastic information for anyone looking to develop pitchers). You can buy it HERE, or learn more about it HERE.

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Want to Get Strong? Quit Switching Strength Training Programs Every Week.

Day in and day out, I see loads of athletes and regular fitness enthusiasts who have hit plateaus in their quest to get stronger, bigger, and leaner - or run into injury issues.  Each situation is unique, but one thing that I am always especially attentive to is learning whether someone has recently altogether overhauled their approach to training.

As is the case in so many things in life, "Slow and steady wins the race," "Rome wasn't built in a day," and "Don't run sideways on treadmills while wearing jeans."  Actually, that last one wasn't all that applicable to what I'm getting at, but it's probably still good advice to heed for some of our easily distracted teenage readers.

I come across a lot of "program hoppers" in what I do.  These are individuals who might do four weeks of Sheiko, four weeks of 5x5 workouts, four weeks of Crossfit, four weeks of German Volume Training, and then four weeks of Tae-Bo DVDs in spandex.  At the end of this five month journey, they are somehow more fit - but literally have no idea what training principles were key in them achieving that end.  Everything was too muddled; they overhauled the entire strength and conditioning program rather than keeping the valuable stuff.

About 8,000 strength coaches before me have used the line, "The best program is the one you aren't on."  Well, I would agree with that - unless, of course, it means that this new strength and conditioning program leaves out all the important stuff that you learned from previous training experiences.

I mean, honestly, I've heard of guys going to strength training programs where they only squat, bench, and deadlift.  They don't even do warm-ups;  nothing else stays!  Then, after six weeks of this program, they email me to ask why their shoulders, back, and knees hurt.  Uh, maybe become the only thing they kept from your old program was specificity?  With no single-leg work, no horizontal pulling, and no mobility work, it's a surprise that they have only been diagnosed with a musculoskeletal injuries - because they probably should have been institutionalized for being so dumb that they're a harm to those around him.

For instance, rather than tell this individual to stop squatting (he actually kept a pretty good neutral spine on the way down), I'd encourage him to a) get a squat rack, b) get a training partner/spotter, and c) put on some clothes.

Major kudos for rocking "The Final Countdown," though; seriously.

Where am I going with this, and how does it apply to you?  Well, the message is very simple: never overhaul.  Instead, tinker, fine-tune, adjust, or whatever else your thesaurus recommends as a synonym.  Good strength and conditioning programs all share certain things in common, and anything that deviates from those qualities isn't worth it.  It's something that I really tried to take into account when I wrote Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.


To take it a step further, I encourage you to be leery of those who encourage you to adapt an entire discipline and change everything that you're doing.  I find that even in the most injured and hopelessly weak folks that come to me for help, I can always find several things that they're doing correctly that deserve to stay.  This is something I've seen in some of the best physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches with whom I've worked in the past, too.  A good professional should work with athletes and clients to meet halfway on what works, not simply pass judgment on a strength training program and overhaul it altogether.

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Barefoot Weight Training Guidelines

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

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

In Part I, The Truth About Quickness Author Kelly Baggett and I discussed his unique background, the importance of perspective, and common mistakes performance enhancement specialists (not to be confused with "strength and conditioning specialists") make. We began to touch on the topic of testing athletes, so let's pick up where we left off.

EC: With optimal testing frequency down, let's cover the tests themselves. Which tests are good? Which ones are outdated? KB: Any test that gets an athlete injured is obviously no good. For this reason there are times (e.g. inexperienced athlete) when it can be counterproductive to perform certain tests like low-rep squats, bench presses, etc. Any test can be improved with practice and I really like tests that don't require much if any practice. Now, for specific tests I really don't like the 225 max reps test for obvious reasons. There is also too much emphasis on a 40-yard dash. I like the test itself but don't like how coaches give so many points based on a player's "40." Agility tests are useful but they can also be improved dramatically with practice and are pre-rehearsed, so they aren't always accurate. Statistical data shows the only test the NFL uses that has much reliable correlation to playing ability is the vertical jump test. Interestingly, it would also seem to be the least "football specific" of all these tests. I'm also all for certain postural tests, length-tension assessments, and the like because these will go a long way in eliminating injuries, optimizing movement efficiency, and helping everything run smoother from the ground up.

EC: New tests that you have to introduce? I know you and I are both are big proponents of the vertical jump vs. counter movement jump comparison. Any others? KB: When it comes to using tests to determine training focus, the vertical jump with and without counter movement is useful to determine strength functions. As an extension of the one you mentioned, try this: sit back on a chair in a ¼ squat and jump up and then compare this to your regular down-and-up jump. If the difference is less than 10%, it indicates that you rely on more pure muscular explosive strength and need plyometric/reactive work. If the difference is greater than 30%, it indicates you need more muscular/explosive strength because you rely largely on the reflexive/plyometric effect. This test is okay, but I still prefer a reactive jump test. The chair version will often give false results because people simply aren't used to jumping from a pure standstill. If I was only able to use one test to indicate ones optimal training focus, strengths, and weaknesses, I'd use the reactive jump test because it tells so much. Not only are the results important in terms of jumping, but they can also be carried over to sprinting, agility, and multiple sports movements. I ran across it in some writings by Schmidbleicher and am surprised that it hasn?t been used more. I've been using it for a year and a half now, and it is very effective; DB Hammer is a true master of testing and finding athletes' weaknesses and he also uses a version of this test but with a specialized reactive jump pad that measures the amortization phase. It's a nice addition, but most aren't going to have access to it and it's not really necessary anyway. The test enables you to gradually increase plyometric contribution and see how the body responds. EC: For our readers who aren't familiar with the VJ vs. CMJ test, how about tossing out a brief outline? KB: No problem. Generally, when reactive ability is good, the amount of energy that you put out in a movement will be directly proportional to the energy you take in. So, if you absorb more force, you develop more force. What you do on the reactive jump test is measure how much force you take in and compare this to how much power you put out. First, measure a regular down-and-up jump. Then, you use boxes and starting from around 12-inches perform a depth jump. Step off the box, jump as high as possible when you hit the ground and measure the height you jump. If it's less than your regular VJ, you can stop there because it's obvious you are lacking in reactive ability. Your ability to absorb negative force and transfer it into positive power is lacking. You'll want to start using reactive and power training immediately; altitude landings would also be good for training your system to better absorb force. Once you become proficient, you then just follow the altitude landings up with reactive jumps.

Now, if your 12-inch reactive jump was better than your VJ, you keep increasing the height of the box in 6-inch increments until you find where your reactive jump drops below your vertical jump. The greater the height of the box when you reach that point, the greater the reactive ability. For some, there will be a gradual increase with each increase in box height. They may find their best jump comes off a 30 -inch box or better. These people are very plyometrically efficient so they need to emphasize muscular strength and hypertrophy to create more resources they can draw from in a plyometric movement - and nearly all sports movements are plyometric dominant. The test also will establish the optimal height of the box one should use for depth jumps; simply use the box that gives you the best reactive jump height. EC: This test also underscores the importance of postural assessments and seeking connections between different tests. If someone has dysfunction at the subtalar joint, it won't matter if they have potential for excellent plyometric abilities at the plantarflexors, knee extensors, and hip extensors. If they're excessively pronating, they'll cushion the shock too well, spending a lot of time on the ground because they can't switch over to supination, which provides a firm base for propulsion. They'll probably wind up with plantar fasciitis, an ACL tear, patellofemoral dysfunction, hip or lower back pain, or sacroiliac dysfunction. You can do power and explosive training until you're blue in the face, but unless you correct the underlying problem with orthotics or specific stretching and strengthening interventions, the exercises to make an athlete proficient will really only make them deficient: injured. Likewise, if someone has excessive supination, they'll be fine with the propulsion aspect, but won't be able to cushion landings well at all. These individuals will wind up with lots of lateral ankle sprains, iliotibial band friction syndrome, pain deep to the kneecap, or problems in the lower back and hip. They're easily spotted, as they don't get immediate knee flexion when upon landing. Again, corrective exercise initiatives have to precede corrective initiatives! Just my little aside; I couldn't keep my mouth shut for this entire interview! Where were we? Oh yeah - any more tests? KB: Let's see...another test that I like to use is the speed rep test; this can easily be implemented for the squat and bench press. You want to be able to explosively and quickly move a load that is fairly close to your limit strength so that you stay to the left on the force/time curve. Instead of basing your explosive training off of percentages you base it on the time it takes you to complete your reps. You simply try to get one rep for every second. You can go two reps in two seconds, three reps in three seconds, or five reps in five seconds. The percentages will vary among athletes, but I like to see bench press numbers up around 65-70%, achieving five reps in five seconds. The squat should be up around 55-60%.

The higher the percentage weight you use relative to your 1RM, the faster you are and the more of your max strength you'll be able to use in a short sports movement.

The converse is also true; the lower the percentage relative to your 1RM, the slower you are. You want to gradually push up your max numbers while maintaining or improving the % of your maximum you can move quickly. If you're up around 70% for bench press, it's time to focus more on pure strength. If you're down around 50%, you need more speed. I should also note that it's not absolutely necessary to know your 1RMs for these tests. Very simply, the more you increase the weight you can use for this one rep per second explosive training protocol, the more explosive you will be in your sport. EC: Good stuff. I know you've got some excellent points on 1RMs; care to enlighten our readers? KB: Sure. For 1RMs, one thing I've picked up from Buchenholz is to look at the time it takes to complete the lift instead of just analyzing the weight lifted. There is a reason why so many people are divided on whether a maximal squat will transfer to added speed or power. It's because the time it takes you to complete a maximal squat is much more relevant to sport transfer; those who achieve their 1RMs with great speed tend to have greater carryover of pure strength into sport than those who lift slower. Watch the guys who naturally lift a max load fast and compare their athletic abilities to those who lift slowly and you'll see what I mean.

To give you an idea, Fred Hatfield completed his former world record 1014 lb. squat from start to finish in under 3 seconds! That's what you call being explosive with a high percentage of your limit strength. I'm not saying that the squat is the best activity to directly transfer to a jump, but it's no wonder that he (at one time) had a vertical jump around 40 inches without any specific training for it! A guy who can complete a true 1RM bench or squat in around four seconds or less from start to finish will often be able to train with more heavy strength training and hypertrophy work and get a good sport carryover. A guy who takes seven seconds or more to complete a 1RM attempt is too slow when applying his maximal strength to get much carryover. Even though he may be very strong, it doesn't matter - nearly all sports movements are quick. He'll need to back off on the heavy stuff and work on rate of force development (RFD) and reactive ability so that he can use a given percentage of his absolute force capabilities quicker. The test to which I just alluded is also useful because it will automatically encourage athletes psychologically to explode more in any of their lifts because they'll realize how important rep speed is. You just have to be careful people aren't going to try to go too fast, increasing the likelihood of injury. EC: Any norms for these tests? What do you typically find? KB: What is interesting about this is that the majority of genetically gifted professional and upper level collegiate athletes are going to fit into the first - naturally more explosive - group. In other words, basic heavy training will work for them - which is what most programs are focused on. What about the guys who are in the other group, though? What if they have to be thrown in on the same program with all the other guys? Unfortunately, they probably won't make optimal progress on the same plan. They need something designed to optimize their attributes and overcome their deficiencies. This is what I meant when I said that we'll see better athletes in all sports as the body of knowledge on training increases. Instead of arguing about basic heavy weights vs. Olympic lifts etc., more strength and conditioning coaches will understand what the best plan is for any given individual or group and train them accordingly. Toss preconceived notions and prejudices out the window and let the athlete be your guide. EC: Optimize attributes and overcome deficiencies? Ubiquitous intelligent strength coaches? You're a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, aren't you Kelly? I mean, honestly, no arguments in the field of strength and conditioning? I can't decide if it would be a good thing because it'll quiet down all the HIT Jedis, or a bad thing because it means we won't be able to torture on them any more. While I search for answers, feel free to tell our audience about any other tests you use. KB: When it comes to speed and finding the right training focus, it's useful is to look at split times. During the start of a sprint - especially for the first 20-30 yards - relative body strength is key. After the initial acceleration period, reactivity becomes dominant, so it's important to find where in the race the athlete is weak. Someone who has a strong start but weak finish is likely strong, but is trying to muscle his sprinting stride. His hips may drop and he'll be unable to run smoothly, allowing his hips and hamstrings to contract reflexively. It could be that his heavy training is getting in the way of relaxation and messing up his reflexive ability. For example, if someone has a 1.4 second 10 yard-dash, but only a 4.9 40, it's pretty obvious that he's explosive and strong. However, when reactive ability takes over, he suffers. He needs more speed work - either through flying runs, longer sprints, or quick action plyometric drills - where relaxation and reflexive action is key. If a guy is fast over the second half of a timed split but has a slow start and acceleration, he just needs to emphasize basic relative strength and explosiveness. EC: As a kinesiology and biomechanics dork, I have to ask: how about actual movement analysis? KB: Instead of evaluating posterior chain strength in the weight room and flexibility with static stretches, just watch how an athlete runs and moves. Is he getting triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips with each stride, or is he chopping his stride short? This can indicate weak hamstrings or a flexibility or postural issue. Often, there is also a poor correlation between posterior chain strength demonstrated in the weight room and function of the posterior chain during a sprint, so you have to look at function instead of just numbers. If the function isn't there but the strength is, you?ll need to cut back on the weight work and focus more on things closely related to the specific activity. EC: Let's talk about the future of sports training. What do you think are the biggest issues on this front, and what can we expect to see in the years to come? KB: I think that the controversy over manufacturing athletes vs. letting nature do all the work will become even more of an issue than it already is. It's obvious that the U.S. is falling behind and it's readily evident by the number of what one could call naturally physically inferior European NBA players in the NBA now. It's getting to a point where the athletes born with the ability aren't the only ones who succeed, although that's pretty much the way it's always been.

EC: You gotta' love the Larry Birds of the world; they do a great job of throwing wrenches in the model for the perfect athlete on paper. That's not to say that we can't make every athlete better with proper training, though. KB: I agree; with improved training methods, you'll see a lot more athletes with inferior physiques and skills (at least initially) make it to the top. The level of training will rise up so that someone who is born without any great physical abilities will be able to improve his abilities above and beyond someone who is born with them but doesn't work at it. Now, we have all these sports performance centers popping up across the US. I feel that's a good thing but they, of course, require money. The people who are able to take advantage of places like these will be well ahead of the guys who just have a school program. This will become even more apparent in the coming years, especially as the people running these places get even better at their jobs. I think Shaq said it best a few years ago; he may have been joking, but I don't know. When asked how he saw the NBA in ten years, he responded, "They'll be a bunch of white guys who can run and dunk as well as shoot!" We'll just have to wait and see? EC: Definitely. Okay, time for a little change of pace. We've focused on performance-based training exclusively thus far, but I know you have some insights regarding how to effecting positive changes in body composition and even bodybuilding-oriented training and nutrition tactics. The floor is yours... KB: Bodybuilders and those interested in physique enhancement need to learn how to better work from the inside out rather than the outside in. Hormones are always going to be at least, if not more important than external initiatives with exercise and diet when it comes to determining what happens with our body composition (muscle gain and fat loss). Any male will put on a good 40 lbs of muscle without doing anything when he goes through puberty. The reverse will also gradually occur with age; that's just how powerful the hormonal effect is. True, we can influence our hormonal state and internal chemistry by what we do, but people interested in the best gains of their life need to learn exactly what is going on inside them and how to best influence everything through diet and exercise to mimic as close as possible that natural hormonal growth surge. In other words, they must learn to optimize their internal chemistry so that fat will melt off or muscle will go on in slabs. Contributors from science and real world-based information sources are really advancing what we know about physical change related internal chemistry: how hormones affect us, what we can do to change certain signals, etc. Up until now, the only approach was to do a few things right and hope everything fell into place. Simply stated: eat like a horse and train heavy, or starve and eat a low calorie diet to lose fat - or load yourself up on steroids and a host of other drugs. Those approaches definitely work and will always work, but I feel they're getting outdated. For example, when it comes to fat loss and stress, leptin has been touted as the major controller of all things related to bodyfat and bodyfat setpoint over the past few years. I believe that the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the stress response is as important, if not more important than leptin. The HPA axis and related central controls will largely dictate partitioning of nutrients, thyroid levels, androgen levels, and overall anabolism/catabolism. We know about too much stress and its effects on cortisol, but it's important to remember that having a lowered response to stress can be just as problematic as having too much. There's no doubt in my mind that methods to more optimally manipulate all these central controls will become very popular in the next couple of years EC: It speaks volumes for knowing something about everything. It's not enough to be a strength coach that only understands training; you have to be up-to-date on nutrition, endocrinology, anatomy, biomechanics, rehabilitation, supplementation, motivation, equipment, and how they all are interrelated. There aren't many coaches out there that are that good, but you're definitely one of them, Kelly. Thanks for your time. KB: No problem; thanks for having me! EC: For more information on Kelly, check out the outstanding product he and Alex Maroko created, The Truth About Quickness.

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Baggett of Tricks, Part I: An Interview with “The Truth About Quickness” Author Kelly Baggett

Today, we have an interview with Kelly Baggett, co-author of The Truth About Quickness.  Kelly's one of the brightest guys in the field of strength and conditioning - but I don't need to tell you that, as you'll get the picture very clearly just by reading the interview below.  Check it out!

EC: Thanks for taking the time to talk shop with me, Kelly. Tell me a little bit about yourself; I don't want our readers to think that I just pulled some lunatic off the street for an interview in order to get an article in on time.

KB: I'm 30 years old and work as a performance enhancement specialist with individuals and coaches of all levels, setting up training, nutrition, and supplementation programs to optimize their progress. I've been fortunate to work in many aspects of the fitness, health, and sports training industry since the age of 18. My passion for these fields isn't limited to team sports; rather, it also includes bodybuilding, which, because of the emphasis on body composition management, has enabled me to pick up many things related to nutrition and apply them to the sports training world. I've pretty much always been into one sport or another; at one time or another over the last 20 years, I've been involved in motocross, baseball, football, basketball, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, martial arts, boxing, and gymnastics. Now that I think about it - pretty much every sport except for golf!

EC: Yeah, I usually get bored after about five holes, too; there needs to be more violence, cheerleaders, and swearing...but I digress. What were the roots of your passions? KB: I've always been partial to the speed and power dominant sports, but in spite of my yearning to be a great athlete, I really struggled as a youngster. Not only was I very small, but I was also really slow: these two qualities don't add up to much! I grew up with a lot of desire for developing the attributes of superior athleticism and plenty of curiosity and dedication to figure out how best to get the job done. These attributes, of course, include qualities like strength, size, speed, power, agility, quick feet, and, of course, "the look." With consistent training, my own athletic attributes really took off and I knew I was onto something. Fortunately, because of the environments in which I've worked, I've been able to apply the knowledge and experience I've gained toward helping others reach their goals. Nonetheless, I realize this is still the very beginning; right now, we're really just getting started with what can be done. When we look at strength and conditioning fifteen years from now, we'll be amazed at just how far we've come; I just want to do my part and contribute to this advancement as much as I can. EC: One of the things that I've always admired about you is your willingness to think outside the box. Where did this unique perspective originate? KB: It's funny that you'd use the phrase "think outside the box," as I hear that quite a bit; a lot of people comment that I seem to dig up answers from all over the place. When it comes to figuring things out, I probably do tend to stray from the more chosen paths. I guess you could say my overall approach of thinking was solidified by some things I've experienced personally. I developed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at the age of 25 and was basically told that I would be fortunate if I could walk in a few years. The commonly accepted treatment options for RA are drugs with harsh side effects like medications used during chemotherapy treatment and prednisone: drugs that I would have had to take for the rest of my life to help slow the progression of the disease. Based on what I observed and heard from others, the drugs didn't work consistently and the side effects were harsh. So, I decided to take my own path, which led me to explore alternative treatment options and develop an understanding of the disease in order to treat it holistically. To make a long story short (I have definitely had my fair share of struggles), I've never touched any common prescription medications for RA and am stronger now then I was 25. I pretty much carry that mindset into everything I learn and do; I feel that you can learn from anyone or any situation if you just keep an open mind. When you learn something, you have to immerse yourself in it fully. However, to really take advantage of the information and advance, you must back out and look at things from the outside-in, asking yourself, "How can I best use this and is this really the best way to accomplish my objective?" I'm all for science, but I prefer to start backwards; in other words, how can real world observations be explained by science? EC: That's a perspective that I'd like to see a lot of people in the strength and conditioning industry adopt. All too often, strength and conditioning coaches are afraid to try something new and, as a result, wind up making the same mistakes year after year with different athletes. For instance, I'm amazed at how many people still think that boatloads of boring, steady-state aerobic exercise and a low-fat diet are the best ways to lose fat. All these athletes do is become weak, tired, sick, and apathetic with compromised endocrine status. KB: I agree; conditioning for athletes is a very common area of ignorance in today's coaches. Too many coaches and athletes try to make up for poor diet by running their guy into the ground with conditioning. Not enough attention is paid to diet, and I feel not enough coaches are well versed in dietary approaches. Physically, someone like David Boston, although probably too extreme, is a good example of what can be accomplished with excellent combinations of each - training and diet. EC: While we're on the topic, what do you think are the most prominent errors that strength and conditioning coaches make? KB: Before I get to the errors themselves, we ought to reconsider the use of the term "strength and conditioning," coach, which I feel would be better renamed "performance enhancement" coach. The term "strength and conditioning specialist" conveys that as a coach you must either be busting your athletes' asses in the weight room or running them to death on the field. Too many coaches get caught up on the strength aspect when their time would be better spent focusing on means of improving performance. They should be asking themselves how they can best increase the short- and long-term performance of an athlete, and they should be able to tell you exactly why they're training a certain way at a particular time and know exactly how and why what they're doing is going to improve performance. Often, performance can be improved by doing nothing at all: simply allowing recovery to take place. Or, in some cases, focusing on things unrelated to strength and conditioning like basic sports movement patterns can be of tremendous value.

EC: Excellent observation; recovery is unquestionably one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated facets of not only making people bigger, stronger, and faster, but also improving demeanor. Some athletes just need more time off than others, so you have to know when to back off on volume, do some pool work, or just send them home to eat and go to bed. KB: I agree. That statement also underscores the important of recognizing that one athlete's trash is another athlete's treasure; it's important to assess each athlete's needs individually. I can't tell you how many times I've seen football players with near-zero agility, dynamic flexibility, and reactive movement ability spend their entire summer in the weight room doing nothing but pounding the weights in an effort to get stronger with very little return in playing ability. On the other hand, I can't tell you how many basketball players, runners, and cheerleaders I've seen who have struggled for months and years on end trying to develop their skills when their woes could easily be cured by a solid month in the weight room making friends with the iron. So, it's definitely not a one-way street; the coach needs to understand which direction the athlete should go. EC: Any other common errors? KB: Another thing I see a lot that I don't always agree with is coaches and specialists looking a bit too much to the rehab setting for answers when they should be looking to the real world for answers. Now this is totally different for the general population, but when it comes to athletes, I think you have to draw the line and ask a simple question: "What qualities do the best athletes have and how can one gain those qualities?" To sum it up, list the twenty greatest athletes you can think of in the NFL, NBA, soccer, hockey etc. Out of those twenty, how many of them do you think spent significant time being coached in stability training, core activation, functionally correct linear and lateral movement training, etc. in their youth? Now, if your answer is anything like mine, it's going to be "Not very many!" What is it, then, that separates these athletes from the rest? What are the things that we commonly do now - the best methods to develop these attributes? That's what you need to be doing! Now don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for almost everything, but I feel if something isn't working right, then you can go back step-by-step and correct it. You usually can use drills or exercises that are very close to what you would normally do; there's rarely a need to go back all the way and have this athlete performing a workout that would be more fitting for someone coming out of multiple joint replacement surgery. If your car drives pretty good and you want it to go faster, you'd want to put a bigger engine in it before you waste time trying to make it drive absolutely perfect. Moreover, before you go and start modifying an engine with all sorts of fancy gadgets, you better be able to use the engine you do have in the first place.  This is a theme that resounds in our product, The Truth About Quickness.

To illustrate this concept, let me give a couple of examples from some "Rocky" movies. I'm just going to assume everyone reading this has seen "Rocky." Remember how Micky trained Rocky for speed and agility by having him catch chickens? Sometimes you just have to "turn the chicken loose." If you can catch the chicken, you're most likely able to move functionally well enough! However, if you can't catch the chicken, maybe you should initially spend more time focusing on the things that will more DIRECTLY improve your speed and quickness and see where that takes you instead of worrying about all the often excessively complex functional training techniques. EC: It kind of brings to mind how the term "functional movement training" has been bastardized over the past few years. There were some really smart people on the right track with their definitions and explanations initially; now, commercially-driven goons have redefined it to convince housewives that standing on a stability ball while performing some silly-looking unilateral inverted wiggling motion with a two-pound medicine ball is the optimal way to be "functional and fit." Last time I checked, if a movement got you from point A to point B, it was functional. So, I suppose these people aim to look moronic, then what they're doing is somewhat functional? KB: Sometimes you just have to take that more straightforward approach. Here's another "Rocky example." Recall that in "Rocky IV," Rocky trained in a harsh Siberian environment with nothing but logs, farm equipment, hills, axes, snow, and a pair of sneakers?in short, nothing that even remotely resembled sophistication. Then, you have his Russian opponent training in a pristine scientific environment with every little aspect of his training measured and accounted for. Sure, it's a movie, but I there's still a lesson to be learned. It's fine to use all that science has, but don't forget there are times when it's better just to roll up the sleeves because that's what sporting environments are like anyway; you can't get too far from that mentality. I try to combine optimal amounts of both sophistication and crude toughness.

EC: Another important lesson that I'd like to highlight from that example is that "Rocky IV" is the greatest movie of all time; I'm still upset that it isn't required viewing in high school history classes when the Cold War is the topic of discussion. By the way, you've already covered my favorite movie, but if you can somehow relate "Happy Gilmore" to deadlifting and "Braveheart" to insulin-independent glucose uptake, you'll be on my Christmas card list forever. You mentioned the optimal amounts of different contributing factors; I'm a firm believer that one can't just understand training or nutrition/supplementation. Rather, coaches and athletes need to understand both individually and, more importantly, the synergistic effect of the two. The old adage that success is "90% diet," while admirable in verse, really does send a bad message. Coaches and athletes need to treat training and nutrition/supplementation like they're both 100%. In fact, we ought to also include factors like restoration, motivation, and education in this equation. KB: Well said, in short, coaches need to put their prejudices and preconceived notions aside and look to the end goal: taking an athlete from A to Z even if that means stepping away from tradition. Let performance and needs determine the optimal focus. Learn how to initiate individualized training prescriptions. Learn how to analyze strengths and weaknesses. Learn what training methods are best for a given goal. Optimize the training economy and don't get cute just for the sake of being different. EC: Okay, let's delve into strength training programs for athletes. I'd like to start by getting your perspective on testing athletes. First off, how often? I think that some coaches waste way too much time with testing-only weeks because they test too many different things and get hung up on testing improvements rather than performance improvements in the sport in consideration. KB: Yes, you're exactly right about this. Too many schools spend an entire week or more getting everybody tested and a large part of that time is spent messing around. I don't see any real need for a testing-only week unless part of that week is also going to be used as a regeneration week. It shouldn't take longer than 2-3 days to test everything, anyway. What I have always liked is to incorporate testing into part of the workout or program. This is very similar to what Westside guys do. Those guys are really "testing" every week on their max effort days. All you'd have to do is cut down on volume in the days prior to the testing workouts and do everything nearly the same - that way the testing doesn't become a distraction to the main goal: improving performance. Also, as a coach, I feel the athletes are constantly being tested and evaluated. When I work one-on-one with someone, there is rarely any definite need for testing because during every session I'm observing and usually always know what's going on. Likewise, I can learn a lot and reduce the need for testing just by analyzing someone's training log. If I see a guy improves six inches in two weeks on his depth jump or reduce his times in a sprint drill, I don't need him to run a week of testing to tell me that his sprint times have improved and his vertical jump has improved. If a guy increases by 20 lbs in a strength exercise working in a lower rep range, I don't need to take time off and have him test his 1RM to show he's improved. However, I should note that the one time that can be an advantage is when it used to show an athlete how much he's improved and to boost his confidence, or when a player absolutely needs to be evaluated in the test. For example, if you're preparing for an NFL combine, you have to get used to the testing procedures and learn how to peak at the right time. Times like that are when it's necessary to run a complete battery of tests and train for the tests because they'll be the main focus. I feel as a coach you should be able to tell where your athletes stand just by observing them and their performance in training and what they do on the field. Look for improved function rather than just numbers. EC: I couldn't agree more. In Part II, we'll pick up where we left off with strength testing, and move on to discuss the future of sports training and how to tie all this together for performance and physique enhancement. Thanks for dropping some knowledge bombs on us, Kelly. KB: My pleasure. I look forward to Part II.

In the meantime, for more information on Kelly's methods, check out the product he created along with Alex Maroko, The Truth About Quickness. It's a fantastic product that I highly endorse.

Update: Be sure to read Part 2: Baggett of Tricks, Part 2: An Interview with "The Truth About Quickness" Author Kelly Baggett. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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