Home Posts tagged "Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core"

Mid-Week Movement Miscellany

With the launch of my new podcast, I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front. However, I've got plenty of thoughts rattling around in my brain, so I thought I'd pull together an article on the topic. Heck, we might even make this a regular series. Here goes...

1. On average, female athletes respond differently to eccentric stress than male athletes do.

Last year, I wrote a blog (Making Movement Better: Duct Tape or WD40?) that touched on the fact that many pitchers lose range of motion at the shoulder and elbow as adaptations to the crazy high eccentric stress experienced during pitching. I also was careful to note that not everyone loses range of motion; in fact, some athletes gain motion (become more unstable). 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research in the softball pitching world shows that females don't lose range-of-motion following softball pitching even though they're still encountering noteworthy eccentric stress. Females are more likely to be hypermobile, so it makes sense that they become more unstable than they do "tight." In short, you probably aren't going to have to work as hard to gain ROM in softball pitchers; your efforts are better directed at regaining neuromuscular control with low-level stabilization exercises.

2. Reaching exercises should drive thoracic flexion and scapular upward rotation, but not necessarily pec recruitment.

On a recent Instagram Q&A, I received the question (paraphrased), "How can I get better scapular contact on the ribs during reaches without too much pec recruitment?" Here was my answer:

3. The best coaching cue for an exercise might just be to do a different exercise.

Also on that Q&A, I got an inquiry about what to do with low back pain due to excessive arching at the bottom of an ab wheel rollout. The answer was pretty simple: regress the exercise; you aren’t ready for ab wheel rollouts.

With anterior core exercises like this, it works a bit like a seesaw: the further the arms go away from the body, the harder the exercise feels (imagine moving a little kid to the end of a seesaw; his weight doesn't change, but the amount of force at the other end of the seesaw needed to offset him does simply because of his positioning). When an individual dumps into anterior pelvic tilt/lordosis (excessive arching) as the arms get further away from the body on a rollout, it's one means of shortening that distance. And, it allows the individual to hang out on the passive restraints on the posterior aspect of the spine instead of using active muscular control to create stability.

A better option would be a stir the pot, stability ball rollout (if you don't go DOWN as far, you don't go OUT as far), or even just a regular prone bridge. These regressions are easy inclusions that are tremendously helpful when dealing with less trained individuals or athletes with long limbs (and spines).

If you're looking to learn a bit more about this topic, I'd encourage you to check out my resource, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core. This seminar presentation is a thorough tutorial on how to best coach and program these invaluable exercises.

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Spring Sale: Final Day!

In case you haven't already heard, I'm running my spring sale right now, with four of my products for sale at 40% off. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. The discount runs until tonight (Tuesday) at midnight. You can learn more at the following links:

Cressey Sports Performance Innovations

The Art of the Deload

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core

The Truth About Unstable Surface Training

Enjoy!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/9/18

I hope you're having a great week. Stay tuned to EricCressey.com, as we started up my spring sale yesterday and will be running it for a good chunk of May. The first product featured is...

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core - This presentation covers an incredibly important topic, and is now on sale for 40% off. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. This is some great continuing education material for under $9.

The Physical Preparation Podcast with John O'Neil - Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts Director of Performance John O'Neil hopped on Mike Robertson's podcast to long-term athletic development in baseball players. There are some great pearls of wisdom for anyone who works with middle and high school athletes.

Caffeine Consumption: How Much is Safe? - The crew at Examine.com pulled together some of the latest research on caffeine consumption to outline how much is considered safe for various individuals across the population.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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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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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 11

Earlier this week, the Major League Baseball Draft took place, and when all was said and done, 27 Cressey Sports Performance athletes had been selected. To that end, I thought it was a good time to type up this month's Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training installment, as the draft has been what's on my mind. Point #1 is a lead-in to the points that follow.

1. I actually posted this on my Facebook page and was surprised at how many "likes" it got, so I'm sharing it here - especially since I think it'll serve as a jumping off point with respect to culture.

The biggest compliment a client can pay to CSP is when a parent trusts us to train their son/daughter during the teenage years when they're young and impressionable and need good role models to model positive behaviors.

The second biggest compliment a client can pay to us is when a professional athlete trusts us with his/her career.

The annual MLB Draft is the time of year when these two compliments coincide, and we get to see how point #1 can lead to point #2 as dreams come true. Congratulations to the 27 CSP athletes drafted over the past three days; thank you very much for having us along for the ride.

It's always awesome to see guys we've trained through their high school years transition to professional athletes. These scenarios not only provide lessons on long-term athletic development, but also the importance of creating a culture at the facility that makes training fun over the long haul.

2. I recently finished up the audiobook, Unmarketing, by Scott Stratten.

UnmarketingCover-232x300

One of the key messages Stratten drills home is that customers have to like you before they can get to know you, and they have to know you before they can trust you. Obviously, in the strength and conditioning field, our athletes/clients are our customers. This "like-know-trust" is an important message, because long-term athletic development - and certainly working with professional athletes (or those trying to become pro athletes) is all about trust. They need to trust that you're giving them the appropriate programming and cues they need for success.

He goes on to discuss how many businesses put the carriage in front of the horse on this point. They don't work to build a relationship with their customers before trying to monetize them. It's like asking someone to marry you in the middle of the first date. I immediately thought about how our business model has impacted our training model.

When a new athlete comes to CSP, they're individually assessed and we have a chance to spend anywhere from 20-60 minutes getting to know them. It's not only a chance to review injury history and go through a movement evaluation, but also an opportunity to build rapport by learning about goals, training history, and common interests. It also gives us a chance to subtly demonstrate our expertise and relate a plan of attack for how we can help. In short, an initial evaluation is about learning about so much more than just whether an athlete has sufficient hip internal rotation!

Eric-Cressey-Shoulder_OS___0-300x156

Conversely, think about what happens when an athlete walks into a facility where every athlete does the same program on the dry erase board, and there isn't an assessment to kick things off. In these scenarios, the trainers/coaches really haven't done anything to get to know the athletes, and they certainly haven't gotten these athletes to "like" them. The road to building trust has gotten started with a pretty messy detour - and it'll take a long time to build things up.

3. We really go out of our way to create context for our athletes when we're coaching. In other words, our coaching cues need to build on what an athlete already knows. A front squat is easier to learn when you've already done a goblet squat, and a rotational medicine ball shotput can build upon what an athlete knows from baseball hitting. However, I don't think people ever recognize the importance of creating context for success - and I'm a big believer that it's been a huge part of the results we've gotten.

Everyone knows that for years and years, the world dreamed of having someone run a sub-4-minute mile. Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister accomplished this great feat - and thereafter, it became very commonplace. Granted, the sports media somewhat unfairly sensationalized the "quest" for the 4-minute-mile, but the message is still very much the same: once you've seen someone accomplish something that appeared very daunting, you're more likely to be able to accomplish it yourself. The 27 CSP guys drafted this year have watched over 50 guys get drafted in the three years ahead of them - and, just as importantly, they've had a chance to rub elbows with them during training. Success leaves clues - and clues help to create context for more success.

4. On the whole, at young ages (younger than 16), I think the notion of "Sports-Specific Training" is actually pretty silly. We can all agree that good movement is good movement, regardless of whether a young athlete plays soccer, football, lacrosse, or basketball. Overhead throwing athletes, though, are - at least in my opinion - a very important exception to the rule.

In all these other sports, we can adequately prepare for the most common injury mechanisms with well coached general training exercises in our strength and conditioning program. However, how many weight room exercises do you see that help an athlete build stability in this position?

layback

If you have an athlete that goes through this kind of lay back - whether it's with baseball/softball, swimming, tennis, or any other overhead sports - you need to train them to build stability in this position.

5. In all, there were 1,215 players drafted earlier this week over the 40 rounds. That's astronomically higher than any other professional sport - and in no other sport do you more quickly go from being a big fish in small pond to being the small fish in a big pond. As of right now, only two of the 41 first round (plus supplemental round) picks in last year's draft have made it to the big leagues. Conversely, if you're a first rounder in the NFL or NBA, you're in "the show" right away pretty close to 100% of the time.

In other words, there is a lot of time for things to go wrong for draft picks while in minor league baseball. Injury rates are at all-time highs, players may get into trouble, and others might just discover that they don't have the talents necessary to compete at the highest level. Scouting baseball players is an imperfect "science" - and, sadly, 90% (or more) of these 1,215 players won't "make it."

For this reason (and many others), I heavily emphasize to our staff and athletes that our #1 job is actually to educate our minor league guys on how to be advocates for themselves and understand what is unique about how they move. If we can give them the best training and nutrition insights possible - and teach them how to practically apply them throughout a long season - they stand much better chance of making it to the big leagues. Strength and conditioning coaches may not be able to impact talent (at least not directly), but we can impact one's ability to display it consistently. In fact, this is what the wall of our assessment room looks like:

durability-300x300-2

6. I've talked in the past about how all our arm care programs work proximal to distal. In other words, we focus on core control, rib positioning, and thoracic spine mobility, then move to scapular control, then to the glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint, and then down to the elbow. It's because there is somewhat of a "downstream" effect. Improving thoracic rotation can improve shoulder internal rotation. Getting an athlete out of a heavily extended core posture can get the latissimus dorsi to calm down, which takes stress off the elbow. Taking care of scapular control might even relieve nerve impingement that's causing symptoms into the hand. The possibilities for this "downstream" effect are really endless.

Conversely, though, there isn't an "upstream" effect. Nobody's thoracic spine mobility improves if you do some soft tissue work and stretching to get some elbow extension and supination back. Improving rotator cuff strength won't get rid of lower back pain.

This is why I think improving anterior core control in baseball players can be such an unbelievable game changer. We know that improving function in the sagittal plane is generally easier than improving it in the frontal or transverse planes, and the anterior core is really responsible for resisting lumbar extension.

APT

Additionally, the core is the furthest "upstream" option to impacting function. So, if you're a believer in the concept of minimum effective dose (and I am), your goal should be to work on the easiest, most impactful stuff first. Anterior core is that option in a baseball population.

In fact, it's so important that I did an entire 47-minute presentation on the topic. If you haven't checked out Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core yet, I'd encourage you to do so.

AnteriorCore

Congratulations again to all this year's MLB draft picks! Have a great weekend, everyone.

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The Best of 2014: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2014 wrapping up soon, I’ll be devoting this week to the best content of the year, based on traffic volume at EricCressey.com. I’ll kick it off today with my five most popular articles from the past year.

1. 5 Things I've Learned About Mobility Training - This article only just ran about three weeks ago, but it still was the biggest hit of the year. Given the popularity, I suppose I should have written it a long time ago!

yogapush

2. Why We're Losing Athleticism - This was my favorite article that I wrote in 2014, and was especially popular among parents.

3. Should You Wear Olympic Lifting Shoes? - What started as a Q&A ended up being a lengthy post that kicked off a great discussion.

4. 6 Reasons Anterior Core Stability Exercises are Essential - We all know core control is incredibly important, but who knew an article about why would be a hit, too?

Gray392

5. The 10 Laws of Meatball Mastery - If you like meatballs, this article is for you. And, if you don't like meatballs, this article is still for you, as you'll surely find a recipe you like - and hopefully a lot more clarity for how to truly enjoy life.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2014" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

In the meantime, you might be interested to know that Rick Kaselj just put the entire Muscle Imbalances Revealed series on sale at a huge 60% off discount to celebrate Boxing Day. I'm a big fan of this series, so if you haven't seen it, I'd encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity here. You'll learn a ton!

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6 Reasons Anterior Core Stability Exercises Are Essential

This time of year, I'm doing a lot of assessments on college baseball players who are just wrapping up their seasons.  One of the biggest issues that I note in just about every "new" athlete I see is a lack of anterior core control. In other words, these athletes sit in an exaggerated extension pattern that usually looks something like this:

APT-250x300

And, when they take their arms overhead, they usually can't do so without the ribs "flaring" up like crazy.

This is really just one way an athlete will demonstrate an extension posture, though. Some athletes will stand in knee hyperextension. Others will live in a forward head posture. Others may have elbows that sit behind their body at rest because their lats are so "on" all the time.

latsPosture

This isn't just about resting posture, though; most of these athletes will have faulty compensatory movement patterns, too. Once we've educated them on what better posture actually is for them, we need to include drills to make these changes "stick." Anterior core drills - ranging from prone bridges, to positional breathing, to dead bugs, to reverse crunches, to rollouts/fallouts - are a great place to start. Here's why they're so important:

1. Breathing

The muscles of your anterior core are incredibly important for getting air out. The folks at the Postural Restoration Institute often discuss how individuals are stuck in a state of inhalation, with each faulty breath creating problematic accessory tone in muscles like scalenes, lats, sternocleidomastoid, pec minor, etc. These muscles aren't really meant to do the bulk of the breathing work; we should be using our diaphragm. Unfortunately, when the rib cage flies up like we saw earlier, we lose our Zone of Apposition (ZOA), a term the PRI folks have coined to describe the region into which our diaphragm must expand to function.

Zone-of-Apposition-300x220

(Source: PosturalRestoration.com)

Step 1 is to get the ribs down and pelvis into some posterior tilt to reestablish this good zone. Step 2 is to learn how to breathe in this position, emphasizing full exhalation.

Step 3, as you may have guessed, is to strengthen these "newly rediscovered" patterns with good anterior core training.

2. Resisting extension.

This one is the most obvious benefit, as the muscles of the anterior core directly combat too much arching of the lower back. If you aren't controlling excessive lumbar extension, it's only a matter of time until you wind up with lower back irritation - whether it's just annoying tightness, a stress fracture, a disc issue, or something else.

3. Better force transfer and lower back injury risk reduction.

The research on core function is pretty clear: its job is to transfer force between the lower and upper body. Spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill has spoken at length about how spine range of motion and power are positively correlated with injury risk. In other words, the more your spine moves (to create force, as opposed to simply transferring it), the more likely you are to get hurt. How do you prevent your spine from moving excessively? You stabilize your core.

4. Indirect effects on rotary stability.

For a long time, I looked at control of extension as "separate" from control of rotation at the spine. In other words, we did our anterior core drills to manage the front of the body, and our chops, lifts, side bridges, etc. to resist unwanted rotation. However, the truth is that these two approaches need to be treated as synergistic.

As an example, every time I've seen an athlete come our way with an oblique strain, he's sat in an extension posture and had poor anterior core control - even though an oblique strain is an injury that occurs during excessive rotation. All you need to do is take a quick glance at the anatomy, and you'll see that external obliques (like many, many other muscles) don't function only in one plane of motion; they have implications in all threes - including resisting excessive anterior pelvic tilt and extension of the lower back.

Gray392

What this means is that you can't simply ignore coaching in one plane when you think you're training in another one. When you do your chops and lifts, you need to prevent lumbar hyperextension (arching) . And, when you do your rollouts, you can't allow twisting as the athlete descends. Finally, you can add full exhales (a predominantly anterior core challenge) to increase the difficulty on rotary stability exercises.

5. Improved lower extremity function and injury risk reduction.

Lack of anterior core control directly interferes with lower extremity function, too. If the pelvis "dumps" too far forward into anterior tilt, the front of the hip can get closed down. As I described at length here, this can lead to hip impingement.

With a squat variation, while some athletes will stop dead in their tracks with this hip "block," others will slam into posterior tilt to continue descending. This is the "butt wink" we've come to see over and over again in lifting populations. When neutral core positioning is introduced and athletes also learn to manage other extension-based compensations, the squat pattern often improves dramatically. This can "artificially" be created transiently elevating the heels, turning the toes out, or by having an athlete hold a weight in front as a counterbalance.

Additionally, athletes in heavy extension patterns often carry their weight too far forward, throwing more shear stress on the knees during lunging and squatting. The more we can keep their weight back to effectively recruit the posterior chain, the better.

6. Improved shoulder function and injury risk reduction.

The lats can be your best friend and worst enemy. On one hand, they have tremendous implications for athletic performance and aesthetics. On the other hand, if they're "on" all the time (as we often see in extension-based postures), you can't get to important positions with the right movement quality. Overactive lats will limit not only shoulder flexion (overhead reaching), but also upward rotation of the shoulder blades. I covered this in quite a bit of detail in Are Pull-ups THAT Essential?. Moreover, with respect to elbow function, overactive lats can be a big issue with allowing throwers to get true external rotation, as I discussed here:

If you're using your lats as an "all the time" core stabilizer, you aren't just at risk of extension-based low back pain, but also problems at the shoulder and elbow. If you can get your anterior core control under control and normalize the length and tone of the lats, your "healthy exercise pool" for the upper body expands dramatically. Getting overhead is easier, and you'll feel stronger in that position. The same goes for external rotation; not surprisingly, pitchers always say that their lay-back feels smoother after soft tissue work on the lats, as an example.

Wrap-up

These are just six benefits of training the anterior core, but the truth is that they could have been broken down in much more detail as they relate to specific injuries and functional deficits. If you're looking to learn more on this front - and get a feel for how I like to train the anterior core - I'd encourage you to check out my presentation, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core. It's on sale for 40% off this week; just enter the coupon code SPRING at checkout to get the discount.

AnteriorCore

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Military Press

I'll admit it: I was far from an early adopter of kettlebells.  These great training implements were apparently first introduced in Russia in the 1700s, yet I didn't really use them much until the past 3-4 years.  So, I guess you could call me a late adopter. For the record, this wasn't just a belated protest of the Soviet Union; I was also the guy who held out on getting a cell phone until after I graduated college.

In the context of this article, though, my stubbornness is actually a good thing, as it means that I heavily scrutinize things before I adopt them.  And, of course, that means that our clients at Cressey Performance don't use new equipment or exercises - and I certainly don't write about them - until I'm sold on their efficacy.  While I was sold on their efficacy several years ago, one set of exercises that I had to put to the test myself were overhead bottoms-up kettlebell variations, and in particular, those that were actual presses and not just holds.

I am, in fact, the perfect guinea pig, too.  You see, I've got a bum shoulder that's probably going to need surgery someday.  I was supposed to have it on 2003, but learned to work around it and have a successful training career in spite of some structural limitaions that came about during my youth tennis career.  That said, one of the exercises that has always hurt - regardless of how hard I rehabilitated it - was overhead pressing.

To make a long story short, I've been able to do the 1-arm bottoms-up kettlebell military (overhead) press pain free for a year or so now.

This is likely due to one or more of three different factors...

1. The instability afforded by the kettlebell.

If you look at the research on unstable surface training, muscle EMG is generally unchanged under unstable surfaces, even though force out put is dramatically lower.  What does this mean?  More of the work you're doing is for joint stability than actually moving serious weights.  That can be a great approach for folks with old injuries like mine.  In other words, adding instability means you may be able to maintain a great training effect in spite of less external loading.  Keep in mind that this applies much more to the upper body - which functions in both open- and closed-chain movement - than the lower body, which is almost exclusively closed-chain movement. I discuss this in great detail in my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.

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2. The Plane of the Scapula

You'll notice that in the video above, the path the kettlebell takes on the way to being overhead is slightly out in front of the body.  Effectively, it's right between directly out to the side (frontal plane) and directly out in front (sagittal plane), as both of these positions are rough on the wrist with kettlebell training and don't lend themselves well to an individual being overhead comfortably.  As an added bonus, the plane of the scapula is generally much more shoulder friendly position as well.

3. More of a grip emphasis.

Anecdotally, you'll see a lot of the brighter minds in the business talk about how increasing grip challenges also helps to better turn on the rotator cuff, which fires reflexively.  We know that your cuff fires automatically when you pick up a suitcase or deadlift, so it makes sense that it would fire more "potently" when the grip challenge is more significant.  While this process, known as irradiation, hasn't been clearly defined or researched, it definitely seems to hold some water.  And, it goes without saying that you'll get more of a grip challenge with a kettlebell than you ever will with a dumbbell.

With these three factors in mind, I've made this my first overhead progression back with clients who are trying to get back to overhead pressing following a shoulder injury.  We have to do a lot of other stuff to get to this point in the progression, but I definitely see this as one of the initial "tests" of how good that shoulder is doing.

Keep in mind, too, that we're just talking about what goes on at the shoulder.  There are also a lot of core stability benefits, too.  By pressing with only one arm at a time, there's a greater rotary stability challenge.  Plus, all overhead pressing are great anterior core exercises, as you must effectively position the core and rib cage to ensure that the scapula and humerus do what they are supposed to do; you're resisting excessive extension the entire time.

With that in mind, you might be interested in checking out my new resource, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core.  This 47-minute presentation covers everything from functional anatomy, to the impact of breathing, to exercise progressions/regressions, and programming recommendations.  You can check it out HERE, where it's on sale at an introductory discount this week only.

AnteriorCore

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Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core

I'm pleased to announce Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core is available for sale. This 47-minute video was taken at a seminar I gave, and it's available for immediate download and online viewing for a price of just $14.99.

AnteriorCore

Like many of you, I’ve grown tired of seeing core presentation after core presentation all saying the same thing.  That’s why I opted to attack this considerably differently, discussing:

  • Functional anatomy
  • The interaction of breathing and core stability
  • What implications the anterior core has with respect to “new age” injuries/conditions like femoroacetabular impingement, sports hernias, SLAP lesions, thoracic outlet syndrome, and lat strains
  • Why no two spines are created equal
  • Why two individuals might need the same exercise, but different coaching cues
  • Progressions and regressions to build your anterior core stability exercise library
  • A model for effectively prioritizing anterior core stability exercises throughout the training week

There’s no travel necessary; you can view this presentation right now without leaving your house.

Click to purchase “Understanding & Coaching the Anterior Core” on our 100% secure server.


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