Home Posts tagged "strength training program" (Page 4)

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 18

It's that time of the week again: Greg Robins is here to throw some tips your way to lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and take over the world.  It's also quite fitting that Greg be our guest contributor on 9/11 in light of his military background.  With that in mind, for every Tweet or Facebook Share (both can be done in the top left of this page) this post gets by the end of the day on Wednesday, I'll donate $0.10 to the Wounded Warrior Project.  Thank you very much to all of you who have served our country.

Now, on to Greg's tips...

1. Be careful not to pair competing exercises.

When you set up your own strength training programs, exercise selection is the most commonly recognized variable; they think about it before they consider a number of other factors. I often advise people to look deeper than simply the strength exercises they are choosing. Instead, many would be better served to evaluate things like sets and reps schemes and total volume week to week while keeping the same movements in their approach longer. This aside, strength exercise selection must be considered at some point, and one rookie mistake is pairing two exercises that directly compete against one another.

Exercises may compete in a variety of ways. For example, pairing two exercises that are heavily grip dependent, such as rows and dumbbell lunges, provides an unneeded challenge to maintain grip strength. A better suggestion would be to keep the rows, but go to a single-leg exercise that doesn't require as much grip work:

Another common example is pairing prone bridge variations with pushing exercises, as the shoulder fatigue will often take away from the ability to maintain good posture in the prone bridge. Take a look at how you have set up your strength and conditioning programs and eliminate pairings that do not allow you to give a full effort to each exercise. It’s easily fixed by subbing in exercise pairings that are direct opposites (e.g., rows with presses) or by pairing strength exercises with mobility drills.

2. Choose jumps and throws wisely for those with elbow and knee pain.

I am an advocate of placing a small amount of “explosive” training at the beginning of both competitive athletes and general fitness clients' programs. Performing an explosive movement prior to resistance training helps to prime the nervous system for the day's training. Additionally, it helps mentally gear people up to lift heavy stuff!

However, many people deal with nagging elbow and knee pain, which can be problematic when coupled with many of the common exercises utilized in this capacity. In some cases, a person may need to forgo these types of movements altogether while we work to alleviate the causes of such problems. For many, though, explosive movements can still be incorporated if appropriate exercises are selected. Limit jumping variations to those with the least amount of deceleration. Work with low level box jumps, and avoid options like broad jumps and depth jump variations. Another great option is to utilize jumps up an inclined surface, like a hill. Furthermore, kettlebell swings present us with an excellent joint friendly option to work the lower extremities in a low impact, explosive fashion.

Lastly, medicine ball exercises can present problems for those with elbow pain. When presented with these issues, stick to throws that do not call for violent extension of the elbow joint. These include overhead stomps done with straight arms, overhead throws done the same way, and scoop toss variations with a strict attention to keeping the arms generally straight.

3. Examine your protein supplements closely.

With the recent popularity in protein supplementation, it’s no shock that everyone is trying to make a quick buck off those looking to pack in more protein. It wasn’t too long ago that you had to seek out an actual nutrition store to purchase products like “ready to drink” protein shakes. Nowadays you can find these at pretty much any convenience store, or gas station mini mart. Furthermore, there was also a time that you could count the manufacturers of protein supplements on one hand, or two at the most. Most of them tasted like cardboard, and you needed an industrial blender to try and make that stuff into something resembling liquid. This has obviously changed - some for the better, and some for the worse. Before picking up your next tub of powdered goodness, take a look at the ingredients. In a similar fashion to what we discussed a few weeks back with food labels: the flashy front promises are often hiding a less than impressive host of ingredients on the back.

First, look at what type of protein you’re getting. Whey is not whey, is not whey, is not whey. Cheaper products are predominantly whey concentrate which is of lesser quality than whey isolate, or the more rapidly usable hydrosylate. It also tends to be harder to mix. Furthermore, if it isn't whey, what's the protein source? Is it soy, milk, egg, hemp, pea, or unicorn blood? Next, how are they making this stuff taste so darn good? Check for added sugar, and the use of artificial sweeteners. Lastly, be weary of the ready-to-drink variations; they are most likely full of chemicals, preservatives, and other things my high school chemistry curriculum failed to cover.

There are definitely reliable sources of protein supplements out there, though. I like to mix up the companies I use, and also the sources. I realize you could get pretty scientific about what works best and when, but I have other things to do. Mixing the source, and attaining them from quality places have served me well; I advise you do the same!

4. Layer up to beat the cold.

Fall is here in New England, and that means the cold weather is almost upon us. I have something to confess: I sweat on an absurd level. Needless to say, fall is a nice change of pace for me. I can wear a color other than black on a date, and I don’t have to buy nearly as much deodorant.

While my perspiration woes are a menace to my social life, I like being sweaty in the gym. As it gets cooler, I wear sweats and spandex or compression pants, shirts and sleeves. Plus, it seems like the perfect time to have an excuse to wear a beanie while training and not look like I am trying to just be a total badass. Do note, however, that I am perfectly okay with wearing anything that makes you feel badass, anytime.

As an aside, though, Cressey Performance does sell beanies; you can buy one online HERE.

It’s more than just a personal preference, though; it will help improve your training quality. Warm joints and muscles are happy joints and muscles. To take it a step further, warm people are happier people too - and that makes them far more motivated to train. Keep this in mind when leaving the house to train. Take a hot shower, layer up, warm up the car, and take any other preventative measures needed to prevent you from entering cold weather hibernation. Your training quality will stay up, and your consistency will continue.

5. Think twice about implementing icing for post-training recovery.

Icing has become a common prescription to help aid recovery of sore muscles. The research has always been less than stellar as to the actual merits of its application, though. Still, ice baths, bags of ice, and cooling packs have been a staple in gyms and training rooms across the country. And, if people are doing it, and claiming it helps them, then why not do it? There are, of course, different ways to use ice. Are we treating inflammation, or muscular soreness?

A recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that icing actually reduced recovery from eccentric exercise induced muscular damage. Participants were given cooling packs for the associated muscles affected by a controlled exercise. The pack was applied at various times for 15m in duration, post-training. The group who was given the cooling treatment did not improve recovery; in fact, it delayed the recovery process in comparison to the group who was not. Given this information, people should place a premium on other modalities to improve recovery. These include soft tissue work, compression, and low level activity in the 24-48 hour period following eccentric exercise.

There still may be some merits to icing in certain situations, so be careful to discard this modality altogether.  However, it's clear that more research is needed to determine if/when it should be used.  For additional reading along these lines, I'd encourage you to check out Kelly Starret's recent blog post, People, We've Got to Stop Icing.

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

Name
Email
Read more

5 Ways to Do Less and Get More from Your Strength Training Programs

Whenever someone talks about a plateau they've hit with their strength training programs, the first question they usually ask is "What should I do?" In reality, the answer isn't just what one should do, but what one shouldn't do, as well.  Here are five examples of how you can get more out of your strength training programs by doing less.

1. Leave the gym sooner.

Tony Gentilcore is one of my best friends.  We co-founded Cressey Sports Performance, were roommates for two years, and he were groomsmen in one another's weddings. 

We also have been training partners since 2005. And, in just about every training session we've ever shared, I've finished before Tony.  Tony absolutely loves to train, so he's always adding stuff at the end: things like conditioning, accessory work, curls and lateral raises.  This stuff is all well and good in the battle to improve his physique, but it's always attenuated his strength gains.

As a frame of reference, back in 2005, my best raw bench press and deadlift were 250 and 510, respectively.  They're now up to 365 and 640.  In that same time period, Tony has gone from roughly 250 to 300 on the bench press, and 500 to 580 on the deadlift.

That said, make no mistake about it: Tony is still a pretty strong dude - and he walks around at sub-10% body fat year round and could be a Men's Health cover model body with a week of dieting.  He trades off some of his strength gains for the volume it takes to build the physique he wants.  I, on the other hand, trade off some of the physique stuff to enhance my strength. 

We take these considerations into mind whenever we write programs for clients. It's all about individual preference, and your goals may shift over time. If you're looking to get stronger faster, though, look to eliminate some fluff and focus on putting your eggs in the "quality, not quantity" basket.

2. Quit pairing so many things up.

We use a lot of "fillers" in the strength and programs we write for athletes.  For instance, they may do a set of yoga plex to work on hip and thoracic spine mobility between sets of trap bar deadlifts.  Athletes have so many competing demands that you can't just ignore everything else while you work to build strength, or else you'll run out of training time. 

In some of our general fitness clients who have a lot of mobility restrictions to work through, but also need to drop body fat and build work capacity, we may use trisets, pairing up 1-2 strength/stability exercises with a mobility drill.  They get a little bit of everything, and they keep moving.

You know what, though?  None of the elite caliber powerlifters and Olympic lifters I've met do this.  They lift, and then stand (or sit) around between sets.  They might not move as well in a variety of contexts as some other athletes I encounter, but they're damn strong.

Look at your program and weight the benefits of adding filler work between sets.  For most folks, the benefits definitely outweigh any subtle reduction in strength you'd see on the main strength exercise.  If, however, your goal is to squat 800 pounds, you don't need to be doing a set of chops or lifts between sets; you're better off resting and contemplating the challenge ahead, then hitting your assistance work thereafter.

3. Shorten up your movement training and conditioning.

A lot of people want to get stronger, but don't want it to interfere with their ability to train for sprinting, agility, or conditioning.  The quick and easy response to these folks is to simply pare back on how much you do with these somewhat competing demands.

If you're accustomed to running 200-400m sprints for conditioning, shorten it to 50-100m and take a bit longer for recovery between sets.

If you normally sprint three times a week, cut back to 1-2 sessions just to maintain what you've built as you add strength to the equation.

If you're used to doing 10-12 sets of agility work in a training session, cut it in half and put it during your warm-up before a strength training session.

Personally, a big chunk of my conditioning actually takes place on the rowing machine in my basement.  I'll just hit 3-5 rounds of 200-500m (anywhere from 30s to 120s) at a once or twice a week frequency.

4. Go to a lower rep range with your main strength exercise of the day.

This sounds like a no brainer, but you'd be amazed at how many intermediate to advanced lifters plug away with 4x6 and 5x5 rep schemes, but can't possibly understand why their strength levels aren't improving.  So, here's a good general guideline:

Lifting really heavy weights (>90% of 1RM) for few reps can get you stronger.  Lifting lighter weights (40-70% of 1RM) for few reps with great bar speed can also get you stronger.  Being in the middle (70-90%) and doing more reps at a slower bar speed often winds up being like riding two horses with one saddle.

There are two take-home points here.  First, regardless of the weight on the bar, your intent should always be to be as fast concentrically (lifting) as possible.  Second, doing sets of five or more reps isn't going to have a great neural benefit for strength improvements, although the volume may help you to gain body weight as a means to build strength. Save the higher rep stuff for your assistance work.

5. Deload.

A line I heard from Kelly Baggett back in the early 2000s has always stuck out in my mind:

Fatigue masks fitness.

If it didn't, we'd all be able to match (or exceed) our personal records in every single training session.  That may be the case when you're a complete beginner, but it's certainly not once you get some experience under your belt.  If you find you aren't getting stronger, try taking some time off and increasing the amount of recovery-oriented strategies - naps, massage, compression - you employ.  You might just find that you bounce back with a PR in a matter of days.

These are just five examples of how subtle modifications to your strength training program can yield big results.  They do, however, underscore the importance of having a versatile strength and conditioning program that can be modified to suit almost any goal.  To that end, I'd encourage you to check out The High Performance Handbook

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

Name
Email
Read more

Risk Homeostasis and Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

A few years ago, I read What the Dog Saw, a collection of short stories from popular author Malcolm Gladwell.

In one particular short story, Gladwell introduces the concept of "risk homeostasis." Essentially, risk homeostasis refers to the fact that modifications that are designed to make things safer often eventually have a break-even effect on safety because of adaptations to those modifications.  In other words, something that should protect us doesn't because new compensatory factors make things more dangerous.

As an example, Gladwell observers that taxi drivers who are given anti-lock brakes actually wind up with higher incidences of traffic violations and accidents.  Presumably, this occurs because the drivers feel they can drive faster and more aggressively because of this added "protection."  

In another case, a study showed that adding childproof lids to medicine bottles actually increased the likelihood that children would die from accidental overdose of consuming drugs not meant for them. The added “safety” leads to adults being less cautious with where they hide bottles of pills.

While watching an absolutely atrocious YouTube video with some of the worst box squat technique in history the other day, my thoughts flashed back to this concept of risk homeostasis from when I read Gladwell's work.  There are actually some remarkable parallels in the world of strength and conditioning.  

1. Wearing a belt.

When a lifter throws on a belt, he assumes that it will make an exercise safer for him.  While the research isn't really in agreement with this assertion, we'll roll with this assumption.

In real life, most lifters throw on a belt because it helps them handle additional weights - and at these weights, their form usually deteriorates rapidly, and does so under additional compressive loading.

2. Popping anti-inflammatories and getting cortisone shots.

When a doctor gives you a cortisone shot or recommends oral anti-inflammatories, it's because he believes you have some level of inflammation, whether it's a bursitis, tenosynovitis, or other issue. This short course of anti-inflammatories will reduce that inflammation.

You rarely see these issues in isolation, though; they're usually accompanied by degenerative changes (e.g., tendinosis) or structural changes (e.g., bone spurs) that could also be causing your symptoms.  Unfortunately, your anti-inflammatories don't know that; they just know they're supposed to kill off all your pain.  They make you asymptomatic, but not necessarily "healthy."

Many individuals get a cortisone shot or take a few days of NSAIDs and assume they can just go right back to training hard with no restrictions because their pain is gone.  A few weeks or months later (when the cortisone shot wears off), they're back in pain (and usually it's worse than before) because they've done nothing to address the underlying causes of the problem in the first place.  They shut off the inflammation and pain, but kept the degeneration, structural changes, and stupid.

The anti-inflammatory intervention is supposed to be part of a treatment plan to make folks healthier, but actually gives them a false sense of security, which in turn makes an injury or condition worse.

3. Lifting alongside an "experienced" coach who has done stupid s**t for decades, but has never been hurt.

It's not uncommon to feel a sense of security when you train with a coach with tons of time "under the bar" himself.  His training background - and reportedly clean injury history - gives you peace of mind and you buy into his system.  And, you continue lifting heavier and heavier in poor form because he's proof that it works, right?

Unfortunately, he's a sample size of one.

His experience should make training safer, but instead, it just leads you to take more poorly calculated risks with your training.

As an example, I did this while goofing around a few years back, but I'd never let one of my athletes try it. There are enough ugly box jump videos out there on YouTube to appreciate that a lot of coaches don't have the same kind of self-restraint.

4. Wearing elbow sleeves and knee wraps.

Elbow sleeves and knee wraps are incredibly common in the world of strength sports, and with good reason: they can really help with getting or keeping a joint warmed-up.

The only problem is that most lifters use them just so that they can power through the exact exercises that caused the joint aches in the first place.

As an example, a lot of lifters lack the upper back and shoulder mobility to use a narrow grip position on the barbell when back squatting, and the medial (inside of the) elbow takes a beating as a result.  Rather than doing some shoulder mobility drills, they just throw on a band-aid in the form of an elbow sleeve.

5. Picking "joint-friendly" strength exercises.

 There are lots of ways to deload a bit in the context of strength exercise selection. Maybe you do some single-leg work instead of squatting.  Or, maybe you do some barbell supine bridges in place of deadlifting.  These substitutions usually make a strength training program safer.

That is, of course, unless you do them with horrendous technique.  Sadly, this isn't uncommon.  You see people who meticulously prepare for squatting and deadlifting and heavily scrutinize their technique with video analysis, yet they'll blow through other exercises with terrible form.  They expect exercise selection alone to make their strength training program safer, but compensate for this added safety by butchering technique.

Of course, these are only five examples of how risk homeostasis applies to strength and conditioning programs, and there are certainly thousands more.  Where do you see good intentions go astray in your training?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 12

Here are some random tips from CP coach Greg Robins to help you improve health, get strong, lose fat, gain muscle, and move better.

1. Consider mixing protein powder with something other than water or milk.

I hardly ever recommend protein powder as the best choice for a quality protein source. However, a quality product (with minimal garbage thrown in the mix) is an easy way to get more protein into someone's diet. For some, a scoop with water or milk is fine; they even enjoy the taste. For others, myself included, the novelty of protein shakes has diminished greatly. Enter other viable options to mix in a scoop or two of your favorite protein supplement.

Option 1: Ice Coffee

This is a game changer. Adding a scoop of vanilla or chocolate protein powder to black coffee is a delicious alternative to milk, cream, and sugar. It not only tastes great, but also fuels your body and gives you a little boost. Furthermore, I find it to be a fantastic option for people looking to shed some weight. The protein powder will satiate you, while the caffeine can work to curb your appetite and stimulate your metabolism.

WARNING: don't try this with hot coffee. The protein powder will not mix well and tends to curdle at the top.

Option 2: Oatmeal

After you cook up a cup or two of raw oats, throw in a scoop or two of your favorite flavor. Make sure the protein goes in after the oatmeal is cooked, and before it cools down and solidifies.

Option 3: Plain Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is delicious on its own, but sometimes it needs some variety. I would much rather get some flavor from a scoop of protein than the sugar filled "fruit" you find at the bottom of most other varieties. One of my favorite concoctions looks like this: 1 cup of plain greek yogurt, 1 scoop of chocolate whey, 4tbsp of oat bran, 4tbsp of shredded coconut flakes. Mix it all together, place it in the fridge over night, and you’ve got a delicious breakfast or snack for the next day.

2. Keep things fresh to keep people motivated.

Last week, I touched upon the importance of sticking to exercise selections long enough for them to have value/transfer in a strength training program. That said, I have spent some quality time inside the walls of commercial gyms, and run a number of different boot camps. You have to keep it fresh, I GET IT! So, how does a coach or trainer get the best of both worlds? First and foremost, educate your clients. You don't need a fancy explanation; just give them a little insight. Show them the "why" that backs up the "how" that gets them the "what."

Look to your assistance exercises as the first place to add variety. Monitoring the progress in (most) assistance work is not as important as just doing it. With that in mind, this is the first place where exercises can be altered more often. There is no point in choosing variations without a purpose. Luckily there are a lot of different exercises that accomplish similar, or the same thing. Resources, such as this blog, are full of different ideas.

Likewise, coaches such as Ben Bruno and Nick Tumminello have made it a point to offer up tons of innovative exercise variations, so check them out!

Lastly, "finishers" (circuit/medley training) at the end of a strength session is a logical place to add in something creative and fun. Keep the intensity high, the duration short, and mix it up. I know many people utilize these, so if you have a “go-to” option, please drop a comment below.

3. If you can’t do full push-ups, stop doing them on your knees.

The push up is a fantastic exercise. It will forever remain a staple for building the pecs, shoulders and triceps. However, let's not forget to appreciate its most redeeming quality: The push up is an ultimate test in torso stability, and the ability to coordinate movement around a stable midsection. While this function of the push up makes it such a great choice for gym goers, it also provides us the reason that push-ups from a kneeling stance will have little transfer to performing them on your feet. Instead, elevate the hands as necessary, and train the push up in the position you ultimately desire to do them from in the future. Doing so will not only help you to train the muscles responsible for pushing, but also those responsible for keeping the spine in a neutral position.

4. Get outside!

5. Remind parents and team coaches that gaining good weight is still a good thing!

Without fail, I will hear at least one young athlete each week ask one of our CP coaches if putting on weight will make them slower. We all know "speed" is what separates the good from the great, as the faster we can move, react, throw, etc., the better we’ll perform. We need to appreciate that speed is dependent on force, and stronger people have more force potential.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, investigators looked at the off-ice fitness profiles of elite female ice hockey players relative to team success. The study found that, "Athletes from countries with the best international records weighed more, yet had less body fat, had greater lower body muscular power and upper body strength, and higher aerobic capacity compared to their less successful counterparts."

To those of us in the field, this is obvious. As with many topics, we as strength coaches or trainers tend to forget the popular opinions of those less involved with what we do. Many parents and coaches still argue that "lighter" means faster, and muscle is "bulky”. Gaining 25lbs of muscle over the course of year will make a 16 year-old athlete who weighs 165lb. into a 190-lb., faster, bigger, stronger athlete. Moreover, 25lbs dispersed evenly over the frame of a 6' athlete will not transform him into the next Lou Ferrigno. Be mindful of this, and again, educate your clients, athletes, and parents!

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

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/18/12

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

Corrective Carries - This excellent piece from Bill Hartman highlights just how valuable carrying exercises can be if they are executed with correct form.

The Paradox of the Strength and Conditioning Professional - This guest blog from Rob Panariello for Bret Contreras' blog was excellent, even if it did read very "sciency." I'd call it must-read material for up-and-coming strength and conditioning coaches.

6 Primo Pressing Permutations - Here's another innovative article from Ben Bruno.  He always has some good exercises for spicing things up in your strength training programs.

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

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 11

Compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are this week's random tips to kick your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs up a notch.

1. Pull back (not up) when deadlifting.

Incorrect bar "direction" is a common mistake I see in folks' deadlifting technique is something I have had to work to overcome myself.  Instead of pulling "up" on the bar, you actually want to think about pulling "back" as you begin the deadlift. When you pull up, the bar tends to drift away from the legs and creates a gap between your body and the bar. As we know, the closer we can keep the resistance to the hips, the better leverages we are going to have during the pull. As the bar begins to move away from the hips, it's like moving the weight to the end of a seesaw. Furthermore, as the bar drifts, the upper back will have to compensate and end up more rounded as it takes more of the load.

2. Change exercises LESS often to increase results.

Adaptation is big, scary word to most self-proclaimed fitness experts. The truth is, you will not adapt to resistance training very easily.

It never ceases to amaze me to hear people's reasoning for how they set up their training. A common theme is that they chose to switch exercises so often to "keep the body guessing." Maybe my experiences have led me wrong somehow, but when, if ever, is your body going to treat moving hundreds of pounds as a normal occurrence?

It's not going to, and the basic barbell exercises (i.e. squatting, benching, deadlifitng, overhead pressing) are going to continue to improve if you work at them consistently week after week, month after month, year after year. You can quote fancy scientific reasoning, or you can look at sports like power lifting, and olympic lifting for evidence enough.

Consider leaving a few basic exercises in your strength training program ALL the time. It will take years of practice to hone in technique, and simple management of volume and intensity in these strength exercises will keep you progressing. The constant monitoring of a stable variable (exercise selection) will enable you to easily measure progress. There is room enough in a long-term strength and conditioning program to play around with different strength exercises through supplemental and accessory exercises. Do yourself a favor and simplify your approach by sticking to an exercise long enough to let it work for you and teach you something.

3. Tell people your goals to set up external sources of accountability.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, get stronger, or accomplish another fitness goal, be sure to tell everyone!

People tend to keep their goals to themselves; they want to quietly make changes. While this may work for some, the more successful approach is often to tell the world your plans. When you announce your plans to make a change you instantly set up numerous sources of accountability. You must hold yourself accountable for your actions, but it helps when you know others are also looking to see your progress. If this is the case, you will be less likely to grab dessert in front of family at dinner, miss a training session (where others at the gym know your goals), or repeatedly stray from your diet when you know in a few weeks you are meeting up with people who are interested to see how far you have come. Other ideas include joining a site (e.g., Fitocracy) where people can track your workouts, or doing a blog or weekly Facebook post on your progress.

4. Grab a deck of cards for an impromptu home workout.

I get asked a lot about travel, or at-home workouts. A while back, I introduced my standard answer: get a deck of cards! Assign an exercise to each suit in the deck, and let the number dictate reps for each choice (face cards are always 10). Here is an awesome workout you can bring with you anywhere:

Spades: reverse lunges
Clubs: single-leg bridges
Diamonds: prone bridge arm march
Hearts: push-ups

Bonus!

Aces: 10 burpees
Jokers: 10 jump squats

If you have a TRX or pull-up bar, I recommend making one suit TRX rows, and jokers a doable amount of pull-ups.

Turn over a card, and GO! See how fast you can make it through the deck, and try to beat your time every workout.

5. Consider using a food journal to aid in weight loss.

I recently came across this Science Daily report on a study from The Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that found that women who used a food journal to monitor daily intake "consistently lost 6lbs more than those who did not."  It's always great when research backs up something that you're already doing, 

You see, the first step we take with our nutrition consults at Cressey Performance happens before the initial consultation. The client is asked to fill out a 3-day food log detailing everything (food and drink) that they consume. More often than not, this alone helps raise people's awareness as to how much they are consuming, and of what quality that food/drink is. It never ceases to amaze me how unaware people are until they actually take the time to write it all out.

While the act of filling out a food journal will help initially, in order to use this tool for constant progress I recommend a few key pieces of advice. Likewise, Anne McTiernan PhD, MD, and her colleagues asked the same of the 123 women participants: "Be honest -- record everything you eat. Be accurate -- measure portions, read labels. Be complete -- include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments. Be consistent -- always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smart phone..."

Pay close attention to being accurate and complete. Many diets fail when people are unaware of extra calories coming from condiments, dressings, or inaccurate portion estimates. I realize this may seem tedious, and it is not something one needs to continue for an extended period of time. However, keep an accurate journal long enough to help you know what "right" looks like.

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

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 10

Here's this week's list of random tips to make you more awesome, in collaboration with Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins.

1. Optimize your strength training program's warm-up sets.

Too often, I see people make the mistake of moving a ton of weight before they reach their top sets for that day. Many strength training programs are based on hitting a certain “top set” or sets in a given lift for that day. While this number may be a good distance from the first weight a person touches that day, it is important that you work to this set in a fashion that has you prepared to attack the weight, but not exhausted to a point that you cannot give that weight a true effort.

I often get asked how should one work up to these top sets. The answer is really dependent on the person asking; over time, a person will learn what works best for them. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • “Treat the light weights heavy and the heavy weights light.” Move everything fast, be methodical in your approach, take advantage of every set as repetitions in good form. By doing so, you will set up for successful top sets, prime your CNS to deliver more powerful, coordinated efforts, and be more confident under heavy loads.
  • Keep your weight jumps consistent. How many pounds each jump should be will depend on how dictate how many warm-up sets you’ll take on the way from A to B. Just make sure to keep the jumps consistent, 10, 20, 30lbs, etc.
  • Just because the top sets call for multiple reps doesn’t mean the sets leading up to them need to be the same. I often take singles and doubles at the heavy weights that land near my top sets, and recommend you do the same. I advocate any additional volume (work done) you need to add be done via drop down sets, or via supplemental lifts.

Here are two examples of how to work up to the top sets in a program:

Deadlift 3 x 3 (Assuming my top sets will be between 475 and 505lbs)
135 x 3, 225 x 3, 315 x 1, 405 x 1, 455 x 1, 475 x 3, 495 x 3, 505 x 3

A1. Squat 3 x 5 (Assuming my top sets will be between 365 and 405lbs)
135 x 5, 185 x 3, 225 x 2, 275 x 1, 315 x 1, 365 x 5, 385 x 5, 405 x 5

You'll notice that the sets that "count" toward my working total follow the 90% rule that Eric outlined HERE.

2. Understand How to Modify Total Work as a Fat Loss Diet Progresses

You will be more successful with your fat loss dieting when you understand a simple concept: the harder you train, the hungrier you get.

The most important thing in losing fat is, has been, and will continue to be your nutrition. Your strength training program should be the priority in training when dieting. You want to maintain as much lean mass as possible, and what made the muscle (resistance training) is what’s going to keep it on you. However, you can’t just continue to strength train, add more conditioning, and eat less. It just doesn’t add up. Either you’re going to fail on the diet or get super weak. Neither of those sounds good to me.

So what’s the solution? Lower the volume as you lower the calories. Whether that comes in the way of shorter strength training workouts (focus on the top sets of big lifts and keep the accessory work limited), or you do less conditioning, you have to do less somewhere.

People are really into metabolic resistance training protocols nowadays, but in reality, all training is metabolic; your diet needs to come first, and these programs are just basic better management of total work done. Base your training around your diet, and as you eat less, do less. Pretty simple.

3. Make Kale Taste Better.

Kale by itself does not taste good. Fortunately, I have a simple recipe to make a delicious dressing to spice it up. I must admit that I am not the originator of this, so thank you to the person who showed me the recipe!


In a bowl, mix the following to “dress” four cups of uncooked kale:

• 3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 3 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
• 3 TBSP Dijon Mustard
• 1 TBSP Pepper
• 2 TBSP Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Enjoy!

4. Make all Reps Quality Ones When You’re a Beginner.

When teaching a new athlete or client an exercise, trainers and coaches must understand the importance of using lighter loads. From a safety and development standpoint, it just makes sense. Moreover, a novice lifter can make gains from loads far below their estimated one-rep maximum.

In order to achieve technical proficiency with the exercise, make sure that you are also keeping the rep ranges low - even when the weights are light. While the person in question may very well be able to move the given load for 12 reps (as an example), you are better off splitting that into 3 sets of 4 reps. Even if that means they are doing 12 sets of 4 instead of 4 sets of 12 overall. Keep the rest a bit shorter, get quality reps, and don’t set them up to fail.

5. Make Sure Your Arm Care Program Includes Upward Rotation Training (from Eric)

I speak a lot to our staff about the importance of training scapular upward rotation to prevent and correct upper extremity problems (especially shoulders) in our clients, and one of my most prominent points is to consider not just "front to back" shoulder balance, but also "top to bottom."  This point was verified yet again by research from the Musculoskeletal Research Center at LaTrobe University in Australia.  Investigators found that "The major difference between groups was that the shoulder pain group displayed a significant downward rotation of the scapula in almost all shoulder positions. There were no differences between the two groups for training factors, range of motion, or in clinical test results."

Below are a few exercises we regularly include in our warm-ups to address these issues.  Forearm wall slides at 135 degrees stops short of full upward rotation and gives us a chance to train the lower trapezius in its line of pull.

 

Wall slides with overhead shrug and lift-off gets us to near full upward rotation of the scapula and recruits the upper trapezius more.  Remember, while upper trapezius recruitment has gotten a bad rap, the upper traps are actually tremendously important, as they elevate the scapula and directly oppose the depressive pull of the latissimus dorsi, which is heavily overrecruited in most folks.  As a heads-up, I generally teach this with the hands a bit closer together throughout the movement.

 

The upper and lower traps work with serratus anterior to get the scapula upwardly rotated (serratus recruitment is already optimized because we are slightly protracted and above 90 degrees of humeral elevation).

Summarily, remember the importance of scapular upward rotation when you see arm care programs where all the exercises are done with the arms at the sides.  Assuming folks can get there pain-free, get the arms up and start training upward rotation functionally.

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

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/28/12

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

Training the Baseball Catcher - This one was lost to archives at EricCressey.com, but it's valuable information for anyone who deals with baseball players.  

Sounders Sports Science and Mentorship Weekend in Review - I liked this review from Patrick Ward on a great event with an outstanding speaker line-up (including Chris West, who was one of my mentors). 

Rotating Your Lifts - I liked this article from Jesse Irizarry because I think it's a valuable reminder that sometimes, the indirect route is the fastest way to get to your goal.  I see too many people who think that they can only get better with specificity in their strength training programs, but the truth is that there is a ton of value to taking a step back and being more general with your training.

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

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 7

Here are some strength and conditioning and nutrition tips to help you lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and scare obnoxious kids off your lawn, compliments of Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.

1. A friendly reminder: you're not that special.

After recently perusing the internet, I felt the need to give you this friendly reminder. I came across (as I am sure many of you have) the commencement speech delivered by David McCullough, Jr. to the 2012 Wellesley High School graduating class. I enjoyed his speech greatly, and found that much of it can be applied to training, nutrition, and athletics.

You're not that special. The reason you're not getting stronger likely has nothing to with your program. The reason you're not losing body fat is probably not a major fault in the nutrition plan you were given. The athletes who impress me the most are the ones who pick up their teammates. They're the ones who celebrate wins and mourn losses as a team, not the ones who advocate their own success and dwell upon their individual shortcomings.

You aren't making progress because you aren't consistent. You aren't losing fat because you're not following that nutrition plan. You aren't impressing coaches because you are not willing to be a team player. Stop worrying about what strength and conditioning program you're on, seek out those who know what they're doing, and devote yourself to that approach. Stop dissecting your nutritional approach and truly embody the basics of better eating. Stop keeping your athletic talents on a pedestal, show up to practice every day, and work hard to make yourself and your teammates better. Stay humble, stay hungry.

As an interesting little aside to this, check out this recent report that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichek removed all jersey numbers from practice uniforms this week as a means of building team unity. Nobody gets special treatment, even if they're a well-known name.

2. Focus on bar speed as much as you focus on bar load.

One of the biggest mistake I see - particularly with intermediate to advanced lifters - is thinking that they need to be setting personal records in every single training session. While you'll certainly hit a few PRs employing this strategy (and there are certainly times to get after them), this expectation is a quick way to not only get discouraged, but burned out on training.

Let's say that Tank's best trap bar deadlift is 415.

Do you really think that - at the end of the day - his body will appreciate a huge difference adaptation-wise between grinding out a rep at 435 and absolutely smoking a single at 400? The time-under-tension difference on one rep is trivial, the injury risk is dramatically higher with the PR attempt, and you run the risk of developing poor technique habits under significant load.

Don't get me wrong; you should still seek to constantly get stronger in your strength training programs. However, you should appreciate that you can still get stronger by leaving a rep or two "in the hole" in some of your sessions, particularly as you get older and more experienced. And, as Anthony Michal pointed out in a recent guest blog for Bret Contreras, you can still get strong at 75-85% of one-rep max - even if a large percentage of your training is performed there.

3. The pullover is a forgotten gem, and we can make it better!

The DB pullover can serve as an outstanding exercise for those who can safely perform it. The benefits of the exercise are three-fold.  First, it build tremendous strength in the anterior "core" as one resists excessive lumbar hyperextension.  Second, the exercise provides a nice "active stretch" for the lats.  Third, it can be a great strength exercise for the lats when someone has medial elbow issues that prevent them from doing the intensive grip work that chin-up and pull-up variations mandate.

Athletes should be cued to keep the rib cage down as the shoulders move further into flexion. Also, make sure that athletes contract the glutes while in the bridge position, and don't allow a forward head posture to occur.

4. Fitness professionals should be supportive of injured athletes and clients.

At Cressey Performance, we receive a lot of referrals of athletes who have recently undergone surgery and/or physical therapy. It is no surprise that many of these athletes are not in the greatest place mentally about their injuries. Can you blame them? As an athlete, your world largely revolves around playing sports and an injury can lead to a bit of an identity crisis; sports are a huge part of your life that can be taken away overnight. With that in mind, how important is it as a strength coach to keep these athlete's positive about their return to the game? Furthermore, what impact to do we have on their outlook?

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the perceived social support from strength coaches among these injured athletes. The results found that:

"...the strength coach (SC) had a significant psychosocial impact on student-athletes' overall psychological well-being during reconditioning. This study provides evidence of the vital psychosocial role that SCs can play during an injured student-athlete's reconditioning program."

Make sure that you do not ignore an athlete because he or she may be unable to fully participate (or participate at full intensity) in your strength and conditioning program. Give positive feedback, attention, and show them that you care. It can make the difference in their recovery and there is no greater feeling than helping an athlete beat the odds and return to top shape post-injury.

5. Find ways to make fitness social.

We often hear about how you need to "shut up and squat" when you're in the weight room, but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of lifters who are successful long-term are great friends with their training partners.  Nobody can be "on" all the time, and while it's important to get serious when you get under the bar, you'll usually find a lot of joking around between sets in even the most accomplished powerlifting and Olympic lifting gyms on the planet.  Training is supposed to be fun, and if it isn't, you need to find a way to make it more enjoyable.

At Cressey Performance, the Thanksgiving morning lift is always very popular, and we notice that many clients really get extra motivated when they see our staff training hard, too.  

We have athletes who schedule their training sessions so that they can lift with friends for extra motivation, and even kids who book sessions when certain professional athletes are in so that they can draw inspiration from those who are living their dreams.  I also love it when we get coaches from other facilities, colleges, and pro teams training with our staff when they visit CP, as you get to see what they're doing and chat a bit between sets.  

Whether it's recruiting your spouse for a walk in the park, calling a buddy to spot you on the bench, or rounding up a team of college roommates to do an adventure race, it's valuable to find ways to get friends in on the fitness fun. 

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

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/13/12

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

Elite Training Mentorship - My new content at Elite Training Mentorship was just loaded up last week.  In addition to two new exercise demonstrations and articles, I added two new staff in-services: "Preventing Anterior Shoulder Instability," and "Zones of Convergence."  Tyler English also provided some great content for this update.

What Top Experts Are Doing Differently This Year - I contributed on this collection of year-in-review reflections from a number of experts in the industry.  Mike Reinold organized it and published it on his blog - and you'll find some great insights there.

A Muscle Plan for Every Man - This was an article I wrote last year for the print version of Men's Health, and they just reprinted it online recently.  In the article, I discuss how to go about writing your own strength training program.

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

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 12
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series