Home Posts tagged "Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual"

Here’s a Black Friday Sale Even Though It’s Not Friday Yet

Everyone on the planet is having a Black Friday sale this week, so we figured we wouldn't even attempt to keep you in suspense on this one. With that in mind, you can save 20% on the following products through Cyber Monday at midnightk by entering the coupon code BF2016 (case sensitive) at checkout. Just click on the links below to learn more and add them to your cart:

Functional Stability Training: Individual Programs or a Bundle Pack

Optimal Shoulder Performance

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core

Everything Elbow

The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual

The Specialization Success Guide

The Art of the Deload

Again, that coupon code is BF2016.

Additionally, my products with Mike Robertson are on sale, too. You can pick up Assess and Correct, Building the Efficient Athlete, and Magnificent Mobility for 20% off (no coupon code needed) HERE.

Enjoy - and thank you for your support!

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School Size, Geography, and Early Sports Specialization

I write a lot about my distaste for early sports specialization here on the blog, and I like to think I've examined it from a number of different angles. That said, I usually focus on the decision of an athlete and his/her parents in this context, but I rarely discuss the situational factors that may govern these decisions. Two perspectives to which I haven't paid much attention are the significant impacts that school size and geography have on young athletes' likelihood of specialization.  This is something I've been pondering more and more as we open the new Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL.

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Mike Robertson pointed out the school size aspect in his Elite Athletic Development Seminar DVD set, and it really got me to thinking. If you go to a small school and are a good athlete, chances are that you are going to "automatically" be a starter on three different sports teams during the academic year, as they might need you to actually be able to even field a team. Thinking back, my high school graduating class had about 180 kids. One sport athletes really couldn't exist if we wanted to be competitive over all three high school seasons. Not surprisingly, I never had a classmate go through Tommy John surgery, and I can count the number of ACL injuries I saw in my high school years on one hand.

Conversely, if a kid goes to a school with 800 kids in his graduating class, specialization is much tougher to do. If you've got 150 players trying out for the baseball team (and budget cuts are eliminating freshmen and JV teams left and right), you better be spending more time preparing for baseball, if that's your long-term aspiration. The "reward" is higher (more exclusive), but the risk has to be higher as well. In a situation like this, we almost have to ask whether it's better to have a kid that tries out for - and proceeds to get cut from - three teams, or if we'd rather have guys specialized along one course so that they can at least stay involved in organized athletics by actually making a team. I don't think there is an easy or even correct answer, but I do think we have to be cognizant of the challenges facing kids at larger schools.

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Geography certainly plays into this as well. As an example, it's much easier for baseball players in northern states to play basketball, too, because basketball season simply takes place while the snow is on the baseball fields. In Massachusetts, the high school baseball season starts on the third Monday in March, which is several weeks after basketball wraps up, in most cases. Conversely, high school baseball actually gets underway in Florida during the month of January; playing basketball is virtually impossible logistically. And, if fall sports go all the way until Thanksgiving, we're really dealing with a situation where kids might only get an eight-week off-season to work on their fitness and more sport-specific preparations.

We might not be able to change these factors, but we find ways to work around them. It might mean getting an athlete to play recreational basketball instead of "official" school hoops, if schedule won't allow the "real thing" to happen. And, it might mean that we need to work harder in our strength and conditioning programs to create an even richer proprioceptive environment where athletes are exposed to a wider variety of movements if these scenarios "force" them toward increased specialization.

As hackneyed a phrase as it might be, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." I'd say that geography and school size certainly fit in the 10% category when it comes to early sports specialization; we all need to continue to improve on the 90%, though.

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7 Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training

It's been a while since I posted one of my "Random Thoughts" pieces, so here are seven things that came to mind yesterday.

1. After the initial year or so of “organized” strength training, athletes don’t get hurt because they’re globally weak; they get injured because they’re positionally weak. This dictates the window of adaptation you seek out.

2. The Turkish Get-up is an outstanding exercise for not only challenging athletes, but also re-establishing fundamental movement patterns they may have lost over the years.  However, that doesn’t mean that everyone is prepared for it on day 1.  Obviously, one must have adequate shoulder flexion to hold a kettlebell overhead, but – as the picture below shows – you can’t overlook the importance of having adequate hip mobility and a good hip hinge pattern.

Get-up hip hinge

In short, if you can’t hip hinge and have brutally short adductors, you can’t do a Turkish Get-up…or at least not a good looking one.

3. Taking this a step further, if you're familiar with the Postural Restoration Institute school of thought, many individuals will likely have a harder time "getting into" the left hip if they present with this common aberrant posture:

adductedrighthip

So, if you struggle with the left hand overhead in particular on get-ups, there's a good chance that it's because everything under that arm is slightly out of whack.  For those folks, a left-stance toe touch can be a game changer.

4. Pull a quad (rectus femoris), and you’ll usually bounce back really quickly.  Pull an oblique and it’s much more stubborn. What’s the difference?  The rectus femoris is really all about the sagittal plane, whereas the obliques have a big role in controlling excessive motion in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes.  The more complex the job of the muscle, the more significant the injury – and the longer the rehab.  Hamstrings have roles outside the sagittal plane and can be equally stubborn, too.

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5. “This athlete is strong enough” is an observation you might make with some male athletes.  The risk of continuing to load up to try to improve maximal strength far outweighs the potential benefits of those strength increases – and there’s likely a bigger window of adaptation elsewhere in their athletic profiles.  Conversely, I can honestly say that I’ve never met a female athlete who was strong enough. It just doesn’t happen.

6. Downright terrible coaches don’t look to the literature at all, or they do so only to cherry-pick study results that support what they’re already doing.  Mediocre coaches look to these resources so that they can have someone else tell them exactly what to do.  The best coaches read diligently and critically, scrutinizing everything they encounter to determine if it is correct and, if so, how it can be incorporated into their existing philosophies. 

Full disclosure: this is actually an excerpt from my e-book, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. I reincarnated it after a discussion with one of my interns the other day.

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7. Watching the incredible success that the Netherlands has with speed skating makes me wonder how many 100mph arms there might be kicking around in the NBA, NFL, and other professional sports.   Much like we’ve seen with baseball players in the Dominican Republic – where there really aren’t “competing” sports – if you prioritize development one sport across a population, you’re going to find more studs even if that population is smaller.

In the United States, a larger country with more “sports variety,” it makes me wonder if this is actually one more argument against early sports specialization.  Maybe if we were more patient and followed athletes for longer in a general sense, we might discover more freak athletes later in the game?

Former NBA player Tracy McGrady attempting to play baseball is a great example.  He was a very good NBA player, but could he have been a Hall-of-Famer in baseball?  Similarly, does anyone deny that some NFL tight ends could have been NBA power forwards, if they’d directed that focus elsewhere?

Early specialization doesn’t just lead to more injuries and burnout and stunted development; it also potentially redirects good athletes away from sports in which they could be sensational.  Of course, there’s no way to know!

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The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual

Take a Comprehensive Look at High-Level,
       Year-Round Athletic Development!

Fellow Athletes and Coaches,

I simply can’t stand it anymore. I’ve watched it with my own eyes, and heard about it with my own ears – thousands of times. MILLIONS of hard-working, dedicated athletes are spinning their wheels with ineffective off-season programming. These are athletes just like YOU and those that YOU coach. They’re experiencing mediocre gains or no gains when they should be improving dramatically. They’re settling for acceptable when they could be getting optimal. They’re sitting on the bench when they should be starting and winning MVP awards and championship trophies.

The time has come for an off-season training resource that will revolutionize the way that athletes and coaches approach this crucial time of the training year. The time has come to get to the truth. The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual is that truth and much, much more!

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Unlike other resources out there that just provide cookie cutter programs, this breakthrough manual won’t just teach you the “what;” it’ll teach you the “who, what, when, where, how and why!” It’s not a “do this” or a “the textbook says this” guide; it’s a how-to manual that will show you step-by-step what it takes to become a superior athlete faster than you ever thought possible!

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Here’s a sample of what this cutting-edge manual covers:

· The difference between what an athlete or coach wants to hear and what that individual needs to hear when it comes to performance enhancement training.

· Why a counterintuitive approach to off-season programming is the key to success.

· The introduction of the “Black Hole of Athleticism,” the area in which the majority of athletes and go astray in programming.

· A discussion of the wide range of factors that can limit athletic performance, how they interact with each other, and how to enhance them so that YOU can reach all-new levels of performance!

· How effective off-season programming can dramatically reduce the risk of injury.

· The differences among overload, over-reaching, and overtraining – and how to evaluate an athlete if you suspect true overtraining.

· Sample yearly planning models for a wide variety of sports – and a tutorial on how to divide your own off-season into the early off-season, general off-season, and late off-season for optimal results.

· How to construct an ideal early off-season template to set the stage for an insanely productive off-season.

· The best performance tests to not only evaluate an athlete’s physical state, but also gather information upon which to base programming for YOU.

· A discussion of the Static-Spring Continuum and how to determine where an athlete exists on this continuum (this alone is worth the price of the manual and a whole lot more).

· Recommendations on how static-proficient and spring-proficient athletes should train differently than each other

· How to integrate active recovery into an off-season training template so that you feel motivated to train.

· How I added four inches to my vertical jump in a matter of months – accidentally!

· Why the general off-season is the “meat and potatoes” of the training year, and how to make the most of it.

· How to individualize the start-up point for the late off-season.

· How to use the late off-season to prepare for preseason without sacrificing the incredible gains YOU make in the general off-season

· What diminished rest interval training is, and what it means to YOU.

· How to consolidate your most taxing training within the training week to allow for optimal performance with sufficient rest.

· The difference between open-loop and closed-loop training – and when to use each during the training year.

· How to effectively integrate Strongman training into your training year.

· 30 Weeks of Sample Programming – including Mobility, Strength, Reactive, and Movement Training!

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Wait...there’s more!

In addition to teaching you how to plan so that you and your athletes perform at all new levels, this manual will make you an instant expert in the field! You’ll know:

· What’s right and what’s wrong with the current state of performance enhancement training in young athletes.

· How to spot a phony performance enhancement coach or facility.

· Why quarterbacks are vertical jumping over 40 inches all the time, while only a few prospects at the NBA combine are even topping 35 inches!

· How to determine if a young athlete is ready for specialization.

· Why a “Go Faster” athlete will always triumph over a “Go Longer” athlete with proper training.

· Why the weight lifted on a one-repetition maximum attempt only tells you half the story; you’re missing some important information if bar weight is the only thing you’re considering!

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The fantastic information contained in this manual isn’t just particular to a certain class of athletes, either. It has tremendous value to athletes in a variety of sports:

· Football
· Basketball
· Soccer
· Baseball/Softball
· Hockey
· Field Hockey
· Mixed Martial Arts
· Lacrosse
· Track & Field
· Rugby
· Skiing
· Volleyball
· Swimming
· Crew
· Cycling
· Distance Running
· And many more!

Click Here to Order The Ultimate Off-Season Training E-Book for just $57.00 using our 100% Secure Server!

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Note: The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual is an e-book. No physical products will be shipped. 

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Strength Training Programs: You Can’t Force Adaptation

A few weeks ago, when we handed a relatively new athlete his second strength and conditioning program from Cressey Performance, he asked:

What different things are we working on this month, compared to the last month?

I was candid with him and emphasized that we'd be working on some of the exact same stuff - but progressing on what we did in Month 1 with new strength exercises and subtle shifts in what was prioritized in light of where he'd improved the most.  In short, the answer was to trust in the program, and allow time for adaptation to occur.

"Assuming" adaptation is one of the biggest mistakes I see coaches and athletes make in strength training programs, as the truth is that everyone responds to a given stimulus differently. 

For instance, I've had professional baseball players come back from long seasons with horrendous rotator cuff strength that takes a good 10-12 weeks to get back to baseline.  On the other hand, I've had guys come back from the same long season with outstanding cuff strength.  It'd be a disservice to these two types of athletes to hand them the same arm care programs, at the same time, with the same progressions.  Unfortunately, it's something that happens all the time in a wide variety of strength and conditioning programs simply because folks may be married to a long-term periodization approach, when more of a short-term "wait and see" methodology may, in fact, be far more effective.

In a linear periodization model (which research has proven inferior to an undulating approach in terms of strength and muscular endurance), one might approach the baseball off-season with the following progression: muscular endurance training (sets of 12-15) in September, hypertrophy training (sets of 6-12) in October-November, strength training (sets of 1-6) in December-January, and then power training (lower-load sets of 1-8) in February-March.

The problem with this model of athletic development, of course, is that you get very proficient in one quality at a time while detraining the others.  And, each athlete may not need a specific phase of this scheme.

For instance, a baseball player who is an insanely reactive athlete might not need any true power training; he could get that from his sport exclusively - and would therefore be better off emphasizing maximal strength.

Conversely, an athlete who is insanely strong, but slow, would need more power training and less work on maximal strength.

Finally, baseball players don't really need much, if any, muscular endurance training.  They build that in a more specific approach later on with the volume and intensity progressions in their throwing and hitting programs.

These are just a few of the many reasons we use a concurrent periodization model for all the strength training programs we write at Cressey Performance.  This broad approach affords us the flexibility we need to make specific changes for each athlete based on the adaptations we observe, not something we assume has taken place.

It's perfectly fine to implement variety to keep training fun, expose an athlete to a rich proprioceptive environment, and ensure that overuse injuries don't occur, but never lose sight of the goals of any good strength and conditioning program: addressing an athlete's most glaring weaknesses.

If an athlete is painfully weak, don't stop all strength work 6-8 weeks out of the season because you're supposed to be working on power and conditioning at that time period.  Just tinker with things; don't overhaul.

If an athlete is strong as a bull, but always deconditioned, you may need to cut back on the maximal strength work and prioritize metabolic conditioning more.

The body will always have a limited recovery capacity, so when it comes to writing strength and conditioning programs, one must always prioritize the most pressing needs, not simply adhere blindly to a long-term plan that doesn't take into account these opportunities for adaptation.

To learn more about sequencing an athlete's yearly training calendar, check out The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, now available as an e-book!

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The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual: New Site, New E-Book Format

I'm psyched to announce that The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual is now available as a digital product.  Until this point, the book had retailed as a hard copy version for $99.99 plus shipping/handling - but from here on out, you can get it for just $57 since we don't have any production or shipping costs.  This manual includes 30 weeks of sample programming based on the results of your self-tests.  Whether you're looking for off-season training for basketball, football, or some other sport, it's an excellent read.

And, we've got a new site to kick things off with the e-book version; check out www.UltimateOffSeason.com. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program

Long toss may have been scorned by quite a few baseball traditionalists, but I am a big fan of it – and our guys have responded outstandingly to the way we’ve used it.  Perhaps it’s just my “1+1=2” logic at work, but I just feel like if you can build up the arm speed to throw the ball a loooonngggg way, then you’ll be able to carry that over to the mound as soon as you get your pitching mechanics dialed in.  And, this has certainly been validated with our athletes, as we have loads of professional pitchers who absolutely swear by long toss (both off- and in-season).

So, you can understand why I got excited when my good buddy, Alan Jaeger – a man who has devoted a big chunk of his life to getting long toss “accepted” in the baseball community – was featured in this article at MLB.com about what a difference it makes - including for the Texas Rangers on their road to the World Series a few years ago.

I was, however, not a fan of this paragraph in the article:

“Former Red Sox pitcher Dick Mills has a business built around teaching mechanics and maximizing velocity, and he is a staunch opponent of long tossing. He has released countless YouTube videos angrily decrying this practice. In his latest, ‘How Long Toss Can Ruin Your Pitching Mechanics and Your Arm,’ he says, ‘Why would you practice mechanics that are totally different and will not help a pitcher during a game? And why would you practice throwing mechanics that are clearly more stressful where the arm does most of the work?’"

Taking it a step further, here’s a Dick Mills quote I came across a few years ago:

“Training will not teach you how to apply more force…only mechanics can do that. And pitching is not about applying more effort into a pitch but is about producing more skilled movements from better timing of all the parts. That will help produce more force. No matter how hard you try, you will not get that from your strength training program…no matter who designed it, how much they have promised you it would or your hope that it will be the secret for you.”

While I agree (obviously) on the importance of mechanics and timing, effectively, we’re still being told that long toss, strength training, and weighted balls are all ineffective modalities for developing the pitcher – which leaves us with what, bullpens and stretching? It sounds like every youth baseball practice in the country nowadays – and all we’re getting now are injured shoulders and elbows at astronomical rates.  Something isn’t right – and the message is very clear: specificity is a very slippery slope.


On one hand, when it comes to mechanics, you need to throw off the mound to get things fine-tuned to achieve efficiency.

On the other hand, research has shown that arm stress is higher when you’re on the mound (there is less external rotation at stride foot contact with flat ground throwing).  Additionally, every pitch that’s thrown is really a step in the direction of sports specialization for a youth baseball player – and something needs to balance that out.  Why?

Well, specializing at a young age is destroying kids.  As a great study from Olsen et al. showed, young pitchers who require surgery pitched “significantly more months per year, games per year, innings per game, pitches per game, pitches per year, and warm-up pitches before a game. These pitchers were more frequently starting pitchers, pitched in more showcases, pitched with higher velocity, and pitched more often with arm pain and fatigue.”  And people think that kid need more work on the mound?  What they need are more structured throwing sessions (practice, not competition) and a comprehensive throwing and strength and conditioning program to prepare them for the demands they’ll face.

But those aren’t specific enough, are they?!?!?!  Well, let’s talk about specificity a bit more.  Actually, let’s read – from renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, a guy who certainly knows a thing or two about why people get injured:

The physical presentation of differently trained bodies often provides a signature of the type and style of activity that developed it. Those who are exclusive in their activities seem more often be molded to their activities, and sometimes actually over-molded. These individuals can actually lose movements and muscles that would make alternate activities much easier.

Specialization can rob us of our innate ability to express all of our movement potential. This is why I encourage highly specialized athletes to balance their functional movement patterns. They don’t so much need to train all movement patterns, they just need to maintain them. When a functional movement pattern is lost, it forecasts a fundamental crack in a foundation designed to be balanced. The point is not that specialization is bad—it only presents a problem when the singular activity over-molds to the point of losing balance.

While there are probably 15-20 awesome messages we can take home from the previous two paragraphs, here’s the big one I want to highlight: it’s our job as coaches to find the biggest window of adaptation a pitcher has and bring it up to speed – while simultaneously keeping other qualities in mind.

If he’s stiff, we work on mobility.  If he’s weak, we get him strong.  If he’s a mechanical train wreck, we get him more bullpens.  If his arm speed isn’t good, we work more on weighted balls and long toss.  If you just take a 5-10, 120-pound 9th grader and have him throw bullpens exclusively, he’ll get better for a little bit, and then plateau hard unless you get him bigger and stronger.

How does this work?  It’s a little principle called Delayed Transmutation that Vladimir Zatsiorsky highlighted in Science and Practice of Strength Training.  Zatsiorsky defines delayed transmutation as “the time period needed to transform acquired motor potential into athletic performance.”  In other words, expand and improve your “motor pool” in the off-season, and it’ll be transformed into specific athletic performance when the time is right.

And, as I wrote in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, “the more experienced you are in a given sport, the less time it will take for you to transform this newfound strength and power [and mobility] into sporting contexts.”  This is why professional pitchers can find their groove each year MUCH easier than high school pitchers in spite of the fact that they probably take more time off each year (2-3 months from throwing) than the typical overused kid who plays on 17 different AAU teams.

That said, there’s a somewhat interesting exception to this rule: really untrained kids.  I’ll give you two examples from the past week alone at Cressey Performance.

We had a high school senior and a high school junior who both just started up their winter throwing programs to prepare for the season.

The first told me that he was sore in his legs after throwing for the first time in his life.  Effectively, without throwing a single pitch or really doing any lesson work (or even throwing off a mound), this kid has managed to change the neuromuscular recruitment patterns he uses to throw the baseball.  Strength, power, and mobility took care of themselves: delayed transmutation.

The second told me that his arm feels electric.  Ask any experienced pitcher, and they’ll tell you that your arm is supposed to feel like absolute crap the first 4-5 days after an extended layoff, but it always gets better.  However, when you’re a kid who has gotten more flexible and packed on a bunch of muscle mass, it’s like all of a sudden driving a Ferrari when you’re used to sharing a minivan with Mom: delayed transmutation.

Specificity is important in any sport, but a it really is just the work as far to the right as you can go on the general to specific continuum.  Elite sprinters do squats, lunges, Olympic lifts, jump squats, and body weight plyos as they work from left to right on the general-to-specific continuum to get faster.  So, why do so many pitching coaches insist that pitchers stay as far to the right as possible?    Symbolically, long toss is to pitchers what plyos are to sprinters: specific, but just general enough to make a profound difference.

In a very roundabout way, I’ve made a case for long toss as something that can be classified as beneficial in much the same way that we recognize (well, most of us, at least) that mobility drills, foam rolling, strength training, movement training, and medicine ball drills to be excellent adjuncts to bullpens. In the process of learning to throw the baseball farther, we:

1. push arm speed up

2. train in a generally-specific fashion

3. improve contribution of the lower half

4. realize another specific, quantifiable marker (distance) of progress

5. keep throwing fun

6. train the arm with just enough LESS specificity to help keep pitchers healthy, as compared with mound work

The question then becomes, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?”  In part 2, I’ll outline the most common mistakes I’ve seen:

When I told Alan Jaeger that I was sending this article out, he graciously offered to set up a 25% off discount code on his Thrive on Throwing DVD set for my readers. This outstanding DVD set thoroughly teaches players and coaches how to approach long tossing, and Alan has also applied a discount to his J-Bands and his Getting Focused, Staying Focused book for pitchers. Here's a link to the discount page.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey Gang, I won't be writing much today, as I'm headed out right now for the 4th Annual Cressey Performance Thanksgiving Day Lift (video to come tomorrow).  However, I did want to take a quick second to say thank you very much for your continued support of EricCressey.com; it's one of many things about which I can be very thankful this holiday season. In continuing with our 'Stache Bash 2010 week of sales, I'm putting the Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual on sale at 25% off through tomorrow (Friday) night.  Just head HERE and enter the coupon code TURKEY at checkout and the discount will be applied.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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How to Get Quick…Quickly – Talking with Kelly Baggett

Today, I'm psyched to have my old friend Kelly Baggett on-board for an EricCressey.com exclusive interview.  Kelly and I go back about ten years, and to this day, he stands out in my mind as one of the brightest guys in the business of making people more athletic - and he's also a heck of an athlete himself. EC: Thanks for taking the time to jump in with us on this interview today.  Let’s talk first about where the “need” for this product came about; what made you and Alex decide to create it? KB: Several years ago I had started using a particular style of movement work with my athletes designed to boost what I like to call “movement efficiency.” The premise was to rapidly and economically get people moving faster, quicker, and more efficiently on their feet without spending a lot of time doing so.  Each workout would start off with this movement work, which was a short ~10 minute section of the workout. Alex was actually a client of mine back when he was just out of high school. He went through some these workouts and really seemed to benefit from them.   Well, a few years later he’s coaching people himself and is nearly out of college.  He had taken the workouts I’d given him several years before and continued doing parts of them and expounded upon them with an emphasis on really boosting his first step in basketball. I had always believed that quickness and explosiveness weren’t necessarily the same thing. A person can be “quick” without being explosive and vice versa.  Alex was a perfect example of that.  He has some videos somewhere out there of him with a basketball: I don’t know if he’ll ever be all that fast and explosive, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone quicker with the ball in his hand on the basketball court. Several years after he was a client of mine, Alex is now a coach himself and has a pretty good training business going.  A little while back, he calls me and tells me how he’d been using these movement progressions with athletes and how well they’ve been working – and, in the process - comes up with the idea of putting the concept into a product based on “The Truth About Quickness.”

The first thing was to address some of the common myths surrounding quickness training and talk about the difference between quickness and explosiveness. The next was to introduce simple progressive quickness promoting exercises that don’t take a lot of time that can be incorporated into any existing program.  The foundation for that were the progressions I had started using several years prior. EC: Let’s talk about your “evolution” as a coach.  What were you doing a decade ago that you thought was high performance training that you realize now just wasn’t cutting the mustard when it came to making people more athletic? KB: When it comes to actual sprint, agility, and plyometric work, nowadays, I’m sort of known as a low volume guy. It’s all about quality over quantity.  However, believe it or not, I used to be one of those coaches who would run guys to death. I spent too much time focusing on sport-specific movements and not enough on foundational training and recovery.  I was one of those coaches who believed that if you wanted to get faster, you needed to do a ton of running.  If you wanted to be more agile, you needed to do a ton of agility and SAQ (speed-agility-quickness) work.  If you wanted to jump higher, you needed to do a lot of plyometrics.  The result was that my programming wasn’t near as efficient as it could be. I guess sometime around the late 1990s, I started discovering by accident that most people could substantially improve sports specific movements without much focus on them.  I’d get these athletes that would come to me and say something like, “Hey I’m not going to play football or basketball anymore, but I still want to look good. I want you to train me to get me big, lean, and strong”.  So, I would.  Then, two months later, the guy goes out and hits a personal best vertical jump and 40 time.

I had experienced that myself in my own progress as an athlete but I always thought I was sort of an anomaly because I wasn’t doing what was considered “traditional” explosive power and speed training. But then I experienced it many, many times with other athletes.   From there things sort of evolved into a challenge of finding the right volumes of movement and strength work, discovering why certain approaches work for some athletes and not for others, and tailoring the approach to the athlete. EC: It doesn’t sound altogether unfamiliar with the approach I took in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, a program that a lot of people worried was too low in “SAQ” volume.  Without getting off topic too much, it’s my humble opinion that the “need” for more and more SAQ work was a provider-induced demand initiated by training facilities that realizes that they could get more young athletes through and make more money by running them ragged and messing around with agility ladders than they could with actually individually assessing kids, addressing imbalances, and getting them stronger.  They traded development for babysitting. But anyway, along those same lines, what are you thinking is a better bet instead for nowadays? KB: Establish proper movement patterns (which include optimizing recruitment/compensation patterns and optimizing coordination), then simply increase the horsepower behind the movement pattern.  You’re obviously one of the masters at establishing proper recruitment patterns and I have a ton of respect for your contributions to the field in those areas.  The recruitment aspects would include anything done with the focus of getting the body to operate more efficiently - stuff like corrective exercise, activation drills and stretches. You then have to engage in enough sport-specific movement training (sprints, agility, jumps etc.) to optimize intra- and inter-muscular coordination in those tasks – and honestly, since those are gross movement patterns, it really doesn’t take a ton of volume.  Then, it’s just a matter of maintaining those things while progressively increasing the power of the relevant contributing muscles – which is easily done through strength training.  Put all that together into a plan that properly addresses recovery between all the elements and you can’t help but get better as an athlete. EC: Just because this is fun, let’s talk about a few things you see in everyday programming from some strength and conditioning coaches that isn’t blatantly terrible (e.g., squatting on stability balls), but rather only marginally effective – and far from optimal? KB:  I guess one of the biggest things is all the complex training I see.  Don’t get me wrong; I like complexes for some purposes (like fat burning and time-efficient training), but I don’t think they should make up the entire workout for athletes looking to build a foundation.  For example, yesterday I saw some people doing step-ups with a curl and press.  The step-up is good, the curl is good, and press is good but when you combine them altogether the effect is rather limited.  My motto is if you’re going  to load an exercise with the purpose of building strength in that exercise (and in the relevant muscles), then put your body in a mechanically advantageous position to do so.

EC: How do your recommendations change from a relatively inexperienced 15-18 year-old athlete versus an athlete who is older and has more experience? KB: The goals don’t change but the focus on the elements does.  For the older athlete, I REALLY focus more on corrective exercise, stretches, and recovery.  Older guys tend to have so many recruitment impairments, flexibility issues, and pre-existing injuries that they can be a disaster waiting to happen unless those issues are addressed.  They not only tend to have more recruitment and compensation impairments than younger athletes, but their tissues also don’t tolerate these issues as well.  While a young athlete can often overcompensate for years and get away with it, older athletes will toast themselves the first trip around the bases at their first weekend softball game. With movement work, I work them into it gradually and also limit the effort.  A young kid can go out and run max sprints or max jumps no problem. But with older weekend warriors,  I like to work them in gradually as far as their rate of perceived exertion goes. EC: This question is more for me than my readers, but I’ll ask it anyway.  Say you’ve got a 14-year-old kid who has never lifted a weight in his life – and he comes to you on his first day of training.  Do you do any sort of sprinting, agility/change of direction, or jump training with him?  Or do you stick purely with resistance training? KB:  The movement work would be VERY limited and would be incorporated into part of his warm-up. It’s the basic concept behind The Truth About Quickness.  The movement part of the workout likely wouldn’t be more than 10 minutes – tops.  It’s enough to warm him up and give him a bit of movement stimulation, but not enough to fatigue him for the rest of the workout.  Short, sweet, and effective. We’ll be back in a few days with a guest post from Kelly in conjunction with the launch of The Truth About Quickness. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Understanding the Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Continuum

A few questions from one of our pro baseball guys inspired me to create this video "tutorial" on how to develop power.  It starts general, and progresses to specific.  Think about how it applies to YOUR sport and your training history.

For more detail, check out The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. Please enter your email below to sign up for our FREE newsletter and receive a FREE deadlift technique tutorial.4
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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
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