Home Posts tagged "Weight Lifting Program" (Page 3)

The Single-Leg Solution: Detailed Product Review

About a year ago, Mike Robertson came out with an outstanding product, The Single-Leg Solution - and it reminded me of an experience I once had at a seminar.  A guy posed the following question to a panel of speakers in which I was included: "If you could only choose one exercise to do, what would it be?" We all agreed that it was a pretty stupid and unrealistic question, but reluctantly, we each answered.  In spite of my distaste for the question, I responded without hesitation: "Lunges - or any single-leg exercise, for that matter." In my eyes, single-leg work really is that valuable - and for a lot of reasons.

single-legsolution

(Gold star to none other than me for thinking of up the title for him.  Booyeah.) So why is single-leg work the best thing since sliced bread? First, there is obviously going to be some direct carryover to the functional demands of life and athletics, as we spend most of our life on one foot in one capacity or another.  Muscular recruitment patterns are different for bilateral and unilateral exercises, so in terms of specificity, single-leg work really can't be beat. Second, it's much more lower-back friendly, as you can load single-leg exercises appreciably without axial loading.  And, to take it a step further, it is easier to maintain neutral spine (and avoid lumbar flexion with compressive loading) with a split-stance - regardless of whether you axially load or hold the weights in the hands at one's sides.  Simply stated, while single-leg exercises will never (at least in my eyes) take the place of squatting and deadlifting, they are absolutely essential supplemental exercises for one's training repertoire.

Third, in the case of back pain (or hip pain, with femoroacetebular impingement being an example), they're hugely helpful in allowing one to maintain a training effect in spite of whatever pain is present. Fourth, single-leg exercises are hard.  Let's face it: most people exercise like pansies and pick the exercises they like the most, not the ones that they need the most - or the ones that are the hardest.  This is 225 pounds for eight pretty effortless reps, which makes girls want him and guys want to be him (or something like that).

Fifth, Robertson insists they are good, and this guy knows as much about knees as anyone I've ever met.  If you want to keep your wheels strong and healthy for the long-term, including them is a no-brainer. This is just five reasons to include single-leg work in your programming, and frankly, Mike includes a heck of a lot more in the 96-page tag-along manual that accompanies the 60-minute DVD in The Single-Leg Solution Package. Knowing that single-leg work is important isn't enough, though, as I see exercise enthusiasts and fitness professionals alike absolutely butchering the technique on these exercises.  And, they have absolutely no rhyme or reason for the "who, what, when, where, why" they include them; it is just throwing a wad of turd on the wall to see what sticks.  Optimal progress is dependent on population-specific exercise selection, pristine technical execution, and pinpoint exercise progressions - and this is where Mike really shines with this product. So, whether you're a personal trainer, bodybuilder, powerlifter, runner with knee pain, desk jockey with a bad back, or just some random dude who wants to get stronger, move better, and be just a little more awesome, I'd highly encourage you to check out The Single-Leg Solution..

single-legsolution

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Favorite Supersets

I've come to realize that over the past ten years, I've gotten a little spoiled. Of course, there are a variety of reasons: TMUSCLE readers are some of the more educated weight-training consumers on the 'Net; I've been around Division 1 athletes who have four years of strength and conditioning continuity in their lives; I've lifted alongside world-class powerlifters; I have a host of athletes who are completely "indoctrinated" with my training philosophies, as it's the only thing they've ever known. Yeah, I guess you could say that I've become a bit of a lifting snob; I'm always surrounded by people who know how to interpret my programs, leaving me to just program, coach technique, help select weights, and turn up the volume on the stereo. Continue Reading...
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Strength Training Programs: The Higher Up You Go, the More Hot Air You Encounter

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

superfan

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

awkward-moments

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

socal_network_tool

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

switch-dan-chip-heath

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

 

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CP Internship Blog: Can Circuit Training Develop Work Capacity? – Part 2

This guest blog comes from current Cressey Performance intern, Sam Leahey. Last time, we discussed circuit training and the validity of whether or not it develops "mental toughness" in our athletes.  We then questioned whether this "mental toughness" (however one defines that term) is actually translating into enhanced sports performance. This week's article focuses on the implications regarding circuit training and "work capacity". Simply type the term "work capacity" into YouTube and you'll end up with tons of videos implementing a wide variety of exercises in circuit training fashion, most which consist of modified strongman events, and every one of these claims the same thing: "it develops work capacity."  What does that even mean?

Now, enter "work capacity" into the search bar on a peer-reviewed research journal site (PubMed, etc.) and what are the findings? Nearly every study listed with the term "work capacity" in the title is in direct reference to something specific like "physical work capacity," "anaerobic work capacity," "aerobic work capacity," "wingate test work capacity," "upper body work capacity", "cardio-respiratory work capacity," or "functional work capacity." Compare and contrast these two discoveries and we are left with the simple conclusion that "work capacity" is specific and using it as a general term is scientifically unjustifiable.  In fact, it is pretty much theory altogether unless directly tied to something else. Yet, when looking across the landscape of private training facilities and collegiate Strength & Conditioning settings, we find that most coaches and trainers use the term "work capacity" in the aforementioned grossly-oversimplified way as opposed to a specific type of capacity that actually makes transferable sense. I often wonder why that is?

confused-baby

There are many common arguments in favor of the work capacity idea. Coaches and trainers are now more than ever espousing and raising "work capacity" awareness.  Let us look at some of the underlying principles and theories behind the "work capacity school of thought" and try to make sense of it and establish how coaches arrived at the solution of "in order to develop work capacity we need to do circuit training". This will lead into the conclusion of this article. Principle: Work capacity is developed when the human body tolerates and recovers from a workload. Once adapted to that stimulus they need to be able to work above that "work threshold" for continued success. I can't believe how much this gets parroted these days. When I think about this statement I am left wondering how this is any different from regular strength training or even a stinkin' bicep curl? It sounds to me like just another way to describe the Principle of Overload, not the "principle of work capacity"! Furthermore, I wonder how it's indicative of the conclusion so many people reach: "I have to do circuit training to develop work capacity?" Theory: If an athlete's general fitness or capacity is low, their specific fitness or capacity will not improve. So you're saying if I take a highly deconditioned athlete with no general fitness and make him play soccer for one week straight he won't be a better, more conditioned soccer player by day seven than he was on day one because his "general fitness/capacity" was low to begin with? Really?

soccerconditioning

One more time. . . Theory: If an athlete's general fitness or capacity is low their specific fitness or capacity will not improve. Though still a vague statement perhaps, now we're getting closer to something actually definable - "general fitness." Many coaches use the terms "general fitness" and "work capacity" synonymously. Perhaps this is where coaches arrive at the conclusion of "I should do circuit training to develop general fitness." More importantly, though, do I even want "general fitness" for my? Or, just specific fitness? It seems we need a definition or list of components of "general fitness" before we can answer that question. You might say that the progression should go from general to specific and my response there would be general WHAT and specific WHAT? What quality are we talking about - strength, power, flexibility, speed, or something else? I feel that to simply just say we should go from general to specific may be shortsighted; we need to clarify what quality we're covering. If you do an internet search or academic search to define "general fitness," you most often times end up at the same thing that is still taught in academic settings today - "General Fitness consists of the 5 Health Related Components of Fitness," which are:
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body Composition
Once here, we can actually begin to clarify the argument.  Am I supposed to develop all these above qualities optimally to attain "general fitness"? Do I even need or want some of these above qualities to be maxed out in say, a sprinter? Nope. If we're talking about Muscular Strength then I totally accept the idea of general strength to specific strength.  However, if we're discussing cardiovascular endurance, then I think most of us would disagree with the general-to-specific thought process. Both Charlie Francis and Mike Boyle have obliterated this general-to-specific idea with regards to energy systems years ago. They speak against doing "general running" (aerobic jogging) and then moving into "specific running" (anaerobic sprinting). Francis has written about how kids need to do enough power related activity in their teen years to really reach optimal performance in sprinting when they get older. What is he saying by that? He's saying we should start specific and end even more specific.

boltwins

Mike Boyle took Francis' thoughts and began doing tempo runs in early off-season with his athletes to develop a sprinting base, which is still inherently specific, and then progress them to higher intensity sprints. Basically, he started specific in as broad a way as he could and then got even more specific with the training. He did not attempt to develop an aerobic base first by running miles and then gradually move to sprinting; rather, he started the off-season with higher volumes of lower intensity "sprints" (tempo runs) and then moved to lower volumes of higher intensity "sprints" (shuttle runs). A different way Coach Boyle also approached this idea during his career of building proper sprinting work capacity (notice it's specific and not "general") is represented in this graphic:

paradigm

Though a different order of intensity and volume, all I'm trying to get you to see is the point that it is not developing "general fitness," but instead specific fitness. So, hopefully now we can all see that the general to specific idea doesn't hold up too well until we clarify what quality we're referencing (strength, flexibility, energy systems, or something else). Theory: Work capacity enhances and coordinates the cardiovascular, metabolic, and nervous systems and it is composed of 2 components: 1) The ability to tolerate a high workload by recovering quickly from the stimulus so that another stimulus can be presented on a consistent basis. 2) Being able to resist fatigue no matter what the source. These two points taken alone, I struggle to see how people are lead to the conclusion that they need to be implementing circuit training to develop this so called "work capacity." However, taken all together with the initial mention of the physiological systems, we may have finally arrived at a specific qualitative point - the nervous, cardiovascular, and "metabolic" systems. Somehow coaches take this to mean that doing circuit training is the best option for coordinating and enhancing these systems. If I take time in my program to do circuit training, will it coordinate and enhance my nervous system optimally with all that fatigue going on during the circuit, especially compared to what I else could be doing instead to prepare my nervous system? I would say "no;" circuit training does not fit the bill optimally. If I take time out of my conditioning program to do circuit training, will it coordinate and enhance my cardiovascular system better than what I'm already doing? Again I would have to answer "no." Will circuit training enhance and coordinate my energy systems (metabolic system) better than my conditioning program? Nope. The point here is the traditional methods you're already using in your strength training, power training, and conditioning program are far superior in developing those physiological systems than doing circuit training. Here's another definition being thrown around the internet: "Work capacity refers to the general ability of the whole body as a machine to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy systems of the body." This is probably the best attempt at defining "work capacity." Yet, the question still arises: do I need or want this "general ability" of my body to "produce work" of varying intensities and times? Instead, how about narrowing it down to what specific energy systems I'm going to need to compete in my sport or event and at what intensity or durations? Doesn't that make more sense that just saying to somebody, "Hey, I've got good work capacity because I can do a million sit-ups, a 1RM squat, a bunch of pull-ups, and then sprint 50 yards - all in under 5 minutes!" Does a competitive sprinter benefit from being able to run a marathon, do a ton of pushups, then do a ton of pull-ups, when he's competing in a 55 meter dash? Would a golfer optimally benefit from doing random "general fitness" activities at random intensities and durations as opposed to specific fitness activities?

tired-track-runners1

So, I humbly ask: why are we doing circuit training to develop general work capacity? How did we ever arrive at the conclusion that a general work capacity was needed as opposed to a specific work capacity like linear sprinting or multiple changes of direction or vertical jumping or asymmetrical rotation (golfer/pitcher)? Instead, can I suggest we seek to develop specific work capacities instead of general ones? How about we develop the ability of a basketball player to reproduce jumping and hopping performance throughout the course of a game. Also, how about we build a golfer's capacity (through corrective exercise) to take all the swings he/she requires without getting hurt instead of running him/her through a modified strongman circuit to build "general fitness" or "work capacity?" Eric Cressey has good work capacity by powerlifting standards; he can take a lot of singles over 90% of 1RM in a single training session and bounce back reasonably quickly.

Does that mean, though, that Eric can just walk outside and play soccer and be good at it because his "work capacity" is up? I don't believe so, because work capacity is specific, not general. Instead, develop the specific capacity to play soccer! There's no need to develop tons of different, and in many cases competing qualities just for the sake of saying we have a general capacity to tolerate a bunch of random events. All in all, it may be best to simply stick with the traditional methods of training and develop the specific capacities needed for a specific event or sport as opposed to taking hours during the training week for circuit training. Just think of what higher-yield activities you could be doing instead while you taking hours of time out each week to do circuit training... Sam Leahey CSCS, CPT can be reached at sam.leahey@gmail.com.
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Lynx Grips: Our Most Versatile Piece of Training Equipment

Back in 2006, Indiana Pacers Strength and Conditioning Coach Shawn Windle told me about a new piece of training equipment and connected me with the company that made it.  A week or so later, my first pair of Lynx Grips arrived in the mail - and I've been using them extensively ever since.  In fact, I found Lynx Grips to be so versatile that when the opportunity to buy a small portion of the company arose, I wrote a check immediately. Originally, the grips were positioned as a better alternative than lifting gloves, especially for females who didn't want to develop "man hands" from lifting heavy stuff.  They certainly prevent the issue completely.  My fiancee loves them - and actually refers to them as her "tacos."

lynx-grips

The more I used them, though, the more I realized that we could integrate them in our strength and conditioning programs with a multitude of other benefits. I recommended Lynx Grips to my online consulting clients who trained in places (i.e., commercial gyms) that didn't allow chalk - and the grips made it easier to pull heavy without losing one's grip during sweaty training sessions.  Problem solved. Conversely, we also started using the Lynx Grips to make grip strength exercises harder - by doubling or even tripling them up to thicken a handle.  Another problem solved. Then, we turned around and used the grips to make things easier on the hands again - but wrapping them around the connector chains we use for reverse sled drags.  This made it easier for us to haze interns (you'll notice him pick up the Lynx Grips at the 2:05 mark of this video). Problem solved...again.

Lastly, we have certain bars - the giant cambered bars, safety squat bars, and farmer's walk bars - that are slightly thinner than other bars, so our muscle clamps don't keep the plates from sliding during one's set.  Slide a Lynx Grip in the small space between the clamp and the bar, and you're good to go.  Yet another problem solved.  Look closely, and you'll see four of them being put to good use in this medley:

I'm not the only one who feels this way.  Dozens and dozens of collegiate and professional sports teams are using Lynx Grips on a daily basis in our strength training programs. What's the take-home message?  Lynx Grips are the real deal: versatile, convenient, durable, and affordable.  Check them out HERE.

lynx

(I'd recommend you pick up two pairs - which is four total grips - so that you can double or triple them up for grip work.) Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Random Friday Thoughts: 4/16/10

1. Yesterday was tax day.  And, since you're all probably feeling like Uncle Sam took a dump in your favorite shoes on the taxes front, this uplifting video couldn't be more appropriate to kick things off.

2. Yesterday also marked the end of the introductory offer on our new Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.  Some of our more noteworthy customers of these DVDs sold to the likes of President Obama, Amelia Earhart, Spongebob Squarepants, and King Tut.  Okay, they really didn't buy any - but they might have if you blog readers had told all your friends about this fantastic resource to spread the word.  The take-home point is that you should feel poor and guilty the day after April 15.  Thanks for nothing.  Let's move on.

3.  Just when I thought nobody could beat me down more than Uncle Sam yesterday, I realized that Tony had written this month's staff training program, and I went through one of the most brutal training sessions in Cressey Performance history.  Here's a little taste:

A1) Bench Press Clusters: 4 x (4x2) - 10s A2) (160-lb/hand) Farmer's Walk: 4x90yds (on last set, it was walk as far as you could go...I went 135 yards)

Frankly, this first pairing was enough to get a 25% attrition rate from our training crew (man down!) - but there was actually more:

B1) Wide Pronated Grip Seated Cable Rows: 3x10 B2) 1-arm, 1-leg DB RDL: 3x8/side C1) Standing DB Military Press: 3x8 C2) Slideboard Bodysaw: 3x10

And, last but not least:

D) Side-Lying External Rotations: 2x8/side

I'm not sure why, but it really made me angry to do these external rotations at the end of all this brutality.  It was almost like Tony was rubbing it in our faces that we weren't quite done, even though the hard stuff was over.  So, just as a statement, I did 2x10/side instead and then suplexed Tony off the loading dock...just because (okay, not really; Uncle Sam suplexed him off the loading dock).

4. While I don't really "commute" anymore because our new house is so close to the facility, I do have a pretty good audio book rolling in the car right now: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.

switch-dan-chip-heath

It was written by Chip and Dan Heath (who also wrote Made to Stick, a book I absolutely loved and highly recommended in the past).  The Heath brothers go into detail on the important factors that determine whether or not attempts at change will be successful, highlighting some profound examples from everything from the business world to nutritional practices with newborns in Southeast Asia.  What I like the most is that they relate everything back to principles that are directly applicable to everything in my "world:" training and nutrition practices, managing employees, and running a business.  It's definitely worth a read.  Check it out HERE.

5. This point is going to make today's blog interactive, as I need some feedback.  My one responsibility on the wedding planning front is to decide where we go on our honeymoon (tough job, I know).  I know I've got readers all over the world who have been to some cool places, so let's hear some recommendations in the comments section below.  We're an active couple and want to honeymoon where we can hike, exercise, etc. instead of just sitting around drinking tequila.  As of right now, I'm leaning toward the Riviera Maya, but am open to suggestions - except Iceland.  This guy convinced me otherwise:

I think that was Alwyn Cosgrove.

Have a great weekend.

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CP Internship Blog: Can Circuit Training Develop Mental Toughness? – Part 1

This guest blog comes from current Cressey Performance intern, Sam Leahey. Preface A qualification needs to be made first. This debate often times confuses people because they don't take the time to qualify what exactly they're discussing. The overriding issue here is on the use of exercise or conditioning circuits in training to develop "mental toughness" and/or "work capacity." Both capacities are actually pretty different scientifically and practically, but too often get thrown into the same conversation. When we talk about using exercise or conditioning "circuits" in the weight room, most coaches rationale for using them is rooted in one of three things: 1)    To build "mental toughness" in the athletes 2)    To build "work capacity" in the athletes 3)    To build both. I want to be clear here that this article will focus solely on thoughts regarding the first rationale and not the others. This if for clarity's sake, brevity, and quality of analysis. In future blogs, I hope to delve into the other two reasons why coaches/trainers program conditioning circuits and whether or not it has value and/or a desired training effect.

Before you continue reading, I'd pose the title of this article to you again and ask that you take a moment to think about your answer - can YOU develop mental toughness of YOUR athletes using circuit training in your programs? What is "Mental Toughness"? The first thing we need to establish is what "mental toughness" really is.  Defining the term alone could be another endless debate, so let's keep things neutral and use good ol' dictionary.com as our trusted resource: Type in the term "mental toughness" and the search comes up empty. Hmm, this has implications. It seems that the term "mental toughness" as a whole is abstract and inherently debatable because there is no established definition in the dictionary. Disagree with me? If so, then I'd point you to the example of the term "Mc Job", which is a term referring to a service industry job that is unstimulating, pays low wages, and offers few benefits. At one point "Mc Job" was an abstract concept just like the term "mental toughness" currently is. It wasn't until enough people settled on its terms that it went from being abstract to a concrete reality which is definable and published in the dictionary itself, see: Mc Job - 2 dictionary results Mc - Job [muh k-job] -noun an unstimulating, low-wage job with few benefits, esp. in a service industry. So, in the same sense, I think the term "mental toughness" will take much longer (if ever) to reach a state of clear and accepted definition. Continuing on, though, what we can establish here is that the words "mental" and "toughness" are separately definable: Men·tal m?n tl/ Show Spelled[men-tl] -adjective 1. of or pertaining to the mind: mental powers; mental suffering. 2. of, pertaining to, or affected by a disorder of the mind: a mental patient; mental illness. 3. providing care for persons with disordered minds, emotions, etc.: a mental hospital. 4. performed by or existing in the mind: mental arithmetic; a mental note. 5. pertaining to intellectuals or intellectual activity. 6. Informal. slightly daft; out of one's mind; crazy: He's mental. -noun 7. Informal. a person with a psychological disorder: a fascist group made up largely of mentals. Tough Spelled [tuhf],adjective,-er, -est, adverb, noun, verb -adjective 1. strong and durable; not easily broken or cut. 2. not brittle or tender. 3. difficult to masticate, as food: a tough steak. 4. of viscous consistency, as liquid or semiliquid matter: tough molasses. 5. capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy: tough troops. 6. not easily influenced, as a person; unyielding; stubborn: a tough man to work for. 7. hardened; incorrigible: a tough criminal. 8. difficult to perform, accomplish, or deal with; hard, trying, or troublesome: a tough problem. 9. hard to bear or endure (often used ironically): tough luck. 10. vigorous; severe; violent: a tough struggle. 11. vicious; rough; rowdyish: a tough character; a tough neighborhood. 12. practical, realistic, and lacking in sentimentality; tough-minded. 13. Slang. remarkably excellent; first-rate; great. -adverb 14. in a tough manner. -noun 15. a ruffian; rowdy. Combining the first two definitions we could say that "mental toughness" via dictionary.com is a strong, durable, non-tender mind capacity or functioning. So now we have a theoretical foundation from which we can work - and we again arrive at the initial debate: can this "mental toughness" be developed by strength and conditioning coaches using forms of circuit training with their athletes? Acute vs. Chronic Here are some classic examples that coaches and trainers (both good and bad) who subscribe to the theory "you can develop mental toughness through circuit training" use in practice. . . (Each exercise done for 1 minute each, circuit done 2-3 times)(*AMRAP - as many reps as possible) "Death Circuit Saturdays" -          Overhead MedBall Slam (AMRAP) -          Tire Flips (20 yards) -          Overhead Sledgehammer Tire Hits (AMRAP) -          Pushups (AMRAP) -          Farmer's Walk (25yards down and back) -          Rotational MedBall Throws (AMRAP) -          Vertical Jump (AMRAP) "Meat-Head Monday" -          Barbell Bench Press (225lbs x AMRAP) -          Barbell Back Squat (315lbs x AMRAP) -          Pull-Up (BW x AMRAP) -          Conventional Deadlift (315 x AMRAP) -          Chest Supported T-Bar Row (70lbs x AMRAP)

"Functional Friday" -          Single-Leg Box Squats (AMRAP) -          1 Arm TRX Inverted Row (AMRAP) -          Front Plank -          Standing 1 Arm Cable Press (AMRAP) -          Side Plank -          Walking Lunges with Overhead DB Press (AMRAP) -          1 Arm Chin-Up (AMRAP) "Strong-Man Monday" -          Farmers Walk (30yards down and back) -          Seated Rope Pull (20yard rope connected to weighted sled - pull to you once) -          Prowler Sled Pushes (30yards down and back) -          Giant Log Lift (AMRAP in 2 minutes) With this list of random circuits in mind, now let's talk about how and when strength and conditioning coaches implement these circuits into their program(s). If you've been around collegiate strength and conditioning for any amount of time, you'll know these circuits usually get placed at the end or beginning of a training week and sometimes at the end of a training cycle. In the private sector of the strength and conditioning profession (training facilities), there isn't that much separation from that either. You'll find these circuits being sprinkled in to the clients (athletes) programs. The biggest point to consider here is that whenever circuit training is used it's almost never done continually, 100% of the time; it's always used sparingly while the bulk of the training is more traditional. Conclusion - The Carryover Imagine if you yourself or an athlete you know did one of the above circuits. How would you feel? It'd be pretty tough wouldn't it? If I told you that you were going to do it again next week, you would be mentally prepared for it, wouldn't you? After doing it every Friday for two months, would you have mentally adapted to the stimulus and find it less of a mental struggle each time? Of course! However, what happens every other day of the week when you don't have that stimulus present? Are you still as "mentally tough" throughout the week as you are on Friday when you are near puking your brains out and have a coach scream at you and blowing whistles? Even more relevant is the perspective of adding up those single exposure circuit days and compare them to all the days in the off-season and in-season you're not doing a circuit. Which of the two sums has the most potential for developing ANYTHING for that matter? In other words, being "mentally tough" is a LIFESTYLE - NOT A SINGLE EXPOSURE TO SOME DEATH CIRCUIT ONCE A WEEK OR ONCE A MONTH! Are we forgetting the fact that many collegiate teams implement these circuits to only end up with losing seasons? Meanwhile, on the other hand, you have teams doing the same death circuits and getting to the championship. Did one team not do enough "death circuits" and needed more exposures so they can reach post season play? Or, did the team who reached the championship lead a mentally tough lifestyle off the field/court/ice and not just get "psyched up" for a death circuit once a week or month? True athletic team success is the result of all the little things added up throughout the week that culminate on game day, not just a mental victory once and while over some weight room circuit. It's performing every exercise in the weight room with perfect technique that fosters CHRONIC mental toughness in athletes. It's not accepting lousy technique for the sake of putting more weight on the bar that makes the athlete mentally tough. It's showing up to train on time, every time, over the course of the entire macrocycle that gives us sustainable and reproducible mental toughness that carries over into team chemistry and cohesiveness. It's going through the full warm-up without skipping steps just so you can get on to lifting heavy weights quicker. It's only doing the prescribed number of reps and sets that's your given and not letting an athlete do his/her own thing. It's not missing workouts or having athlete find excuses not to come in and train because it's a "light day" or "regeneration day". It's a culture, not a single event! Living a mentally tough lifestyle is what produces long term athletic success. If you want your athletes to reach their full mental potential and, in turn, athletic potential, then find ways to change their LIFESTYLE instead of getting them "psyched up" for your weightroom circuit you worked so hard to design. Furthermore, the mental toughness lifestyle you cultivate in your weight room can carry over into the rest of their lives as well whereas some weekly circuit cannot.

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If you develop a culture of mentally tough athletes in your weight room via the little things, their ability to reproduce that (which is the whole point, anyway) can certainly be carried over into the way they approach the sport skills practice and whatnot. If they're showing up to the weight room on time, every time, how much more likely will they be to show up for practice on time, every time? If they're habitually not cutting corners in the weight room and choosing to not take the easy way out, will they make the same decisions on the field/court/ice where they know it has more direct carry over to game day? You can see that the evolution of leading a mentally tough lifestyle eventually can translate into habitual changes in personal character and discipline. I struggle to see how a weekly circuit or once a month event can have even a remotely similar effect. It is the responsibility of the coach to instill this aforementioned mentally tough lifestyle through cultivated weight room culture. So the argument is essentially a fundamental disagreement, but I think the answer is quite clear. Even though the term "mental toughness" lacks a true definition, can we as coaches instill what most would agree on as "mental toughness" in our athletes via the weight room? The answer is "yes," but it's not through doing "death circuits." Doing things habitually RIGHT breeds a lifestyle that makes you mentally tough. This chronic mental toughness cannot be accomplished with a sparingly used weight room circuit of exercises. The Exception I wrote this article/blog knowing full well that someone out there would come up with the question: "What if I have my athletes do circuit training EVERY time we train then, for an entire off-season. This way we're getting the "mental toughness" stimulus constantly. Would that work?" In response, I would say there is only one man I know of on the entire planet who was inherently ingenious enough to implement circuit training EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT and still not have his athletes overtraining. This way, they were constantly pushing the mental envelope and eventually they went from being a good team to the winning the national championship of college hockey. The strength coach's name is Michael Boyle. Unless you have the ingenious capability of.... -          engineering circuit training day in and day out for an ENTIRE off-season, -          having no one get injured doing so, -           have most everyone on the team get stronger, -          and most importantly find a way to have these mentally tough workouts carry over into the players habitual lifestyles, ....then I suggest you don't even both trying. If you've read the book Outliers you'll understand there's only one Mike Boyle for a reason and you're NOT him.

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For the rest of us, I think it's best to stick to the above rationale if we want develop true mental toughness in our athletes that will last a lifetime of athletic competition. Sam Leahey, CSCS can be contacted at sam.leahey@gmail.com.
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Random Friday Thoughts: 4/2/10

1. We moved into our new house on Wednesday of this week.  All of the packing, lugging, and unpacking was well justified when I realized that my commute is now limited to a whopping 3-minute walk to Cressey Performance.  It's a far cry from the 40-60 minute drive (each way) I had previously.  I did the math on it and realized that it'll save me 16 full 8-hour days of work per year in commuting.  I think 2010 will be a productive one - especially now that I've got my own home office! 2. Optimal Shoulder Performance was released on Monday, and it's already gotten some great reviews from those who attended the actual seminar: The early-bird price ends soon, so don't miss out!  Purchase Optimal Shoulder Performance now!

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3. Mike Robertson has been doing some great podcasts lately.  The last two have been with Pavel Tsatsouline and Joe Kenn.  They're 100% free; check them out HERE. 4. Some new research was just published that showed that a 2-0-2 tempo and 2-0-4 tempo elicited just about the same acute hormonal response during bench pressing (with the exception of IGF-1, which was slightly higher in the 2-0-2 tempo).  I have long been a believer that we should be less concerned with modifying the ACUTE endocrine response to resistance training via programming variables.  Everyone has seen that wanker in the gym who uses a meticulous 406 tempo on every exercise, counting to himself as he lifts his pathetically tiny weights.  We all knew he was a complete tool for being so neurotic (and weak), but now we have some research to show that those extra two seconds on the eccentric weren't as important as he insisted. Don't get me wrong; I recognize that eccentric exercise is more damaging to tissues and therefore probably has more benefit in the context of building muscle mass, but you also have to realize that using prolonged eccentrics limits that the lifter can use.  So, it's really a system of checks and balances on strength and hypertrophy development. 5. Uh, is anyone else as fired up as I am for the start of the Major League Baseball season?
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Random Friday Thoughts: 3/19/10

1. I thought I'd kick this post off with a little technique troubleshooting.  Yesterday, one of the "guinea pigs" for my new project emailed this video to me and asked for some suggestions on bench press technique:

BP from Caleb Chiu on Vimeo. My suggestions to him were as follows: a. Your feet are antsy and jumping all over the place.  Get them pulled up a bit more under you so that they can't move around.  Then, focus on pushing them into the floor the entire set. b. Get more air in your belly.  Notice how the stomach sinks in?  That's because you don't have any air in it! c. Get a handoff.  The #1 reason guys flair the elbows out is that they lose scapular stability - and you lose that the second you hand off to yourself. 2. I'm headed to a Postural Restoration Institute Myokinematic Restoration Seminar this weekend up in Portland, ME - while my fiancee and my mother work on stuff for the wedding.  It is amazing what lengths guys will go to in order to escape wedding planning, huh? Just kidding; I'm actually really excited about it.  Neil Rampe of the Arizona Diamondbacks turned me on to the PRI stuff and it's really intrigued me from the get-go. 3. It's been a fun week around here with the start of the high school baseball season.  I got over to help out with some warm-ups and movement training with the Lincoln-Sudbury guys during tryouts on Mon-Tue.  In all, we saw 33 Lincoln-Sudbury high school baseball players - from freshman to seniors - this off-season, so it was pretty easy to pick up where we left off with them in the weight room.  There was great energy, and lots of excitement about the new season. 4. Here's a great feature on Blue Jays prospect Tim Collins and his training at Cressey Performance.

5. I was interviewed last week for an article about pitch counts.  It's now featured HERE.

6. Some feedback on Assess & Correct:

"I was pretty excited when I received an e-mail from Eric and Mike saying that I was getting an advanced copy of their new Assess and Correct product.  Mike and Eric have had a history of putting out top notch information and products and when I saw that Bill Hartman was also involved in this new product I knew that this was going to be even more special.

"Since I own a fitness facility, I'm always looking for cutting edge information that I can recommend to my trainers.  After viewing the DVDs and reading through the manuals, my first thought was, 'Wow, a home run!' "Finally, a product that I could wholeheartedly recommend to all of my trainers as an excellent go-to reference tool to enhance their abilities in assessing their clients needs; pinpointing their weakness &/or imbalances and then effectively addressing these findings to make sure their clients can achieve their goals safely." Joe Dowdell, CSCS - Founder & Co-owner of Peak Performance, NYC www.peakperformancenyc.com Click here to pick up a copy of Assess and Correct.

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7. Last, but certainly not least, CP athlete Danny O'Connor aims to run his professional boxing record to 11-o tonight with a bout at Twin River Casino in Rhode Island. Good luck, Danny!

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6 Dirty Tricks to Instantly Increase Muscle and Boost Performance

When we were seven, my friends and I loved to eat spinach. Not because we liked the taste. God no. Raw spinach tasted like, well, leaves, and the goop we'd spoon out of the can was vile, smelly stuff. No, we ate spinach because Popeye ate spinach. It made him instantly muscular and powerful-a can of spinach and he could punch through brick walls. We could only imagine how it would transform our pre-pubescent bodies into superhero physiques. We shoveled it down our throats, testing our gag reflexes, and satisfying our mothers. Continue Reading...
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