Monday, January 31, 2011

The Majority = FAIL

"Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively." ~Dalai Lama XIV 

As briefly discussed in the previous post, the majority of people are extremely misguided when it comes to fat loss, athletic performance enhancement, muscle gain, and nutrition.  If you want to know what NOT to do, walk in any commercial gym in look at what 95% of the people are doing.  It's not that everyone is intending to do it wrong, of course; it's that they're receiving direction from the wrong sources. 

Example #1:  Just about every commercial gym will place all of the treadmills, ellipticals, and machines immediately beyond the entrance.  This is obviously a strategic move from a marketing standpoint, as gym owners have figured out (sadly) the first thing people want to see is the "cardio" equipment.

Disastrously, people think that slugging away on the treadmill/elliptical 45-minutes a day, 3 times a week, is the answer to the body transformation they're looking for.  However, take a look at the same people an entire year later, and I guarantee that 95% of them will look the exact same and - in fact - possess WORSE movement quality than they did one year prior.

Without further ado, here is a brief list of how NOT to fail like the majority:

#1: Stop it with the non-fat drinks already!  This is what originally launched my idea for this post (when I was in Starbucks and the woman in front of me ordered a non-fat chocolate mocha).  

Come on people!  Are you seriously kidding me!

Is a "non-fat" drink going to make you "not fat?"  Fat or non-fat beverage, it is not going to spare your waistline (and health) from the 59 grams of sugar in that drink, regardless of what type of milk you order!  

This goes for salad dressings, too.  In fact, almost any "non-fat" ANYTHING is loaded with sugar.  Please remember this.  If you do order a non-fat X, at least do so with the knowledge that it it's not going to help you see your abs.

Sugar is the enemy of your waistline, not fat. 

#2:  Warm Up.  Your 4th grade gym instructor was actually on to something.  It amazes me how many people "get right to it" upon arriving for their workout.  In fact, if someone is short on time, they would often be better served cutting out the back-end of their routine as opposed to omitting the warm-up.  Spending 10-15 minutes on a high quality warm up of foam rolling, mobilization drills, and corrective exercise will make your training sessions far more effective and set you up for long-term success.

For the ladies: Yes, it will make your fat-burning sessions five times more worthwhile.

For the gents: You know that shoulder pain or low back pain that has been bothering you?  Perhaps you'd be better served warming up before sprinting to the bench press or squat rack.  The equipment isn't going to run away from you.  And you'll be able to move more weight, which is what you're after anyway.

#3.  Lift with correct technique.  I've been on the verge of purchasing horse-blinders for quite some time now.  For myself.  To wear when I enter the average gym.  The majority of people's exercise technique is horrendous.  And it's no wonder why people think lifting weights will lead to injury.  It will, if you use the technique that most people do.

Let's begin with the basic pushup.  The PUSHUP.  It's like most guys learned how to do pushups from watching a fish flop up onto dry land.

Synonymous to most pushup technique out there.

When I first began working in the training industry, I was shocked at how few men could do good pushups.  You know the pushup-success-rate for a member of the male gender walking into our doors for the first time?  0%.

And this is O.K.  Almost everyone is bad when they try something for the first time (or, in this case, tries something correctly for the first time).  And that's why most people walk through our doors anyway.  Heck, I did pushups incorrectly for years.  My point is that if people have awful form on something as basic as a pushup, it makes me cringe thinking about something like a squat or deadlift.

And women can do it to.  We have many females in SAPT who put the guys to shame with their pushup technique.  Exhibit A:  Below is Jenny, a full-time employee and mother.  She is over 50-years old, and destroys men with her ability to do pushups.  Here she is performing perfect, tempoed pushups with 15lbs of weight on her back (I also added a quick clip of her executing a near-flawless "Move-the-Mountain" plank):

Keep those elbows locked at a 45-degree angle, get your upper back involved by "pulling" yourself to the ground, and keep that chin tucked (no forward head posture) allowing your chest to reach the ground before your face.

I'm not even going to go into the deadlift and squat form I see whenever I travel and enter a commercial gym.  I'm surprised there aren't lumbar discs shooting out of spines as these people deadlift, or connective tissue tearing all over the place in the knees of those squatting.

Lifting doesn't create pain.  Lifting incorrectly creates pain.  Peformed correctly, you'll feel like a new man or woman.

#4.  Utilize progressive overloadThis mostly applies to females, as the boys often attempt to lift something that their ego can handle but their body cannot.  In other words, if you can lift a weight "X" number of repetitions, it's time to try something a little heavier. 

In fact, failing to use progressive overload (among other things) is one of the critical reasons why most females have such a difficult time achieving the results they're looking for.  You know that 5lb dumbbell you've been doing tricep kickbacks with for the past 6 months?  That may be a good place to start with regards to body transformation (read: lose the 5lb dumbbell along with the tricep kick backs, it's not going to "tone" your arms).  

Most of the high school and college girls we coach at SAPT have "the look" that most females aspire to attain.  How?  Utilizing progressive overload on the compound lifts: pushups, squats, deadlifts, lunges, row variations.

And NO, you're not going to turn into a "she-man" if you lift weights (see the video of Kayleigh I posted last week).  In fact, this is going to get you to your goal far faster than slugging away on that elliptical. 

For the girls who don't believe me (I understand, I am a male) visit Rachel Cosgrove's website.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at a seminar last year; she is an AWESOME woman aiding many females in positive body transformation and helping them feel more confident.  (Her most recent article is titled "14 HOURS OF CARDIO, 1400 CALORIES = NOT A LIFE!")

Rachel Cosgrove. 

#5.  Stop using 3 sets of 10 on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  It's one of the most archaic loading protocols ever, and yet still the most popular.  And guys wonder why 225lbs is still burying them on the bench press....

#6.  Have someone else write your program.  Yeah, yeah, yeah....I'm sure you are the most objective and unbiased person, especially when it comes the subject of yourself (note sarcasm).

I admit: I'm more biased with regards to myself than any other topic.  In my mind, I'm as swift as a gazelle and I move on land as fluid as a dolphin swims in water.

Which is why I rarely write my own training program.  This may come as a surprise, as I help people every day in performance enhancement.  However, if I wrote my own program, I would - in all likelihood - give myself the things I am best at and ignore the things I need to improve upon.  In the past 3 years of training (36 months) I have followed my own plan for roughly 5 out of those 36 months.  And you know when my progress was the least?  When I was following my own program.

Why?  No one is worse at writing his or her own training/exercise plan than his or her self.  You will almost always favor your strengths, and not give yourself the things that are going to be the difference-maker in your progress.  Sure, I'm extremely confident in coaching other people, leading them right to the goal he or she is looking for.  However, when it to my own plan?  No chance. 

Stop writing your own programs, and seek out a qualified professional in the area who can take you to where you want to be.  Only someone else can view you through a completely objective lens.  (Ex. That's why siblings are so great.  To inform you of your flaws).  

#7:  "Agility Ladders."  Any strength coach who runs your child through ladder drills for 30 minutes is stealing your money.  Plain and simple.

Does it look fancy?  Sure.  Does it look like your child is increasing his or her speed or agility?  Probably.

However, I'm sorry to tell you that these drills aren't going to do a thing for your speed or agility when used inappropriately.

Do ladders make a good warm-up, waking up the central nervous system and giving the child something fun to do?  Absolutely.  For increasing speed: look elsewhere.

That's all for today.  Now set yourself apart from the majority!

Friday, January 28, 2011



"Everything popular is wrong." ~Oscar Wilde

"Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively." ~Dalai Lama XIV

As I stood in line this morning to order a coffee in Starbucks (thanks to those that provided me with some Christmas gift card money!) the woman in front of me places an order that got me thinking.  What did she order?

A "non-fat chocolate mocha."  

Not that I haven't heard people order this before, in fact I hear the "non-fat" order almost every time I enter a coffee shop (this may or may not be on a daily basis).  And I admit, I may be completely mistaken in her intention of ordering this particular beverage.     

But it made me sad.  Not for her particularly, but for Western society as a unit.  I clearly wasn't angry at the woman, that would be nonsense.  But it was a glaring reminder to me that the majority of people have it all wrong, even though they often intend to do what is right. This is especially true in the realm of exercise and nutrition:
  • Fat loss
  • Athletic performance
  • Muscle gain
  • Nutrition 
The majority has it all wrong.

In fact, if you want to know what NOT to do with regards to exercise and nutrition, look at the majority.

Walk into any commercial gym, observe what 95% of the people are doing (even the personal trainers, I'm sad to say) and there is your answer for how NOT to achieve the results you're seeking.
More detail to come on Monday....

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Runners and Resistance Training, Part 3

"Why do endurance athletes continue to do large volumes of steady-state work?  There are three basic reasons:
  1. They're good at it. 
  2. It's easy to do
  3. They've always been told they need an aerobic base."
~Mike Boyle (has trained countless competitive endurance athletes to faster times and decreased injuries)

This final post in the mini-series is going to be pretty brief.  I hope at this point most of you reading realize just how important a solid strength training program is to an endurance athlete's success.  Please pass it along to anyone you know who partakes in distance running!

To the distance runners in the crowd: I hope by now you understand just how much a well-designed strength training program can aid your running (hint: A LOT).  I challenge you to critically think about what may be holding you back from stepping out of your comfort zone getting involved in strength training.  Question all the pre-conceived notions you may have:
  • "Why do I believe this?"
  • "Who told me this?"
  • "Is this belief actually grounded upon any reason or logic, or is it just what the media has been telling me?"
  • Have I had a negative experience with weight training or a trainer in the past that has skewed my views?"
I am not going to write an entire running-oriented program on the blog.  That wasn't the purpose of this series.  Plus, that would make it too easy for you :)  However, I'll at least point you in the right direction.  Ready?

Step 1Buy a foam roller.  No, seriously, buy one.  I trust this isn't too far outside your comfort zone.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade, you realize that soft tissue work is critical to more effective training sessions, decreased risk of injury, and increased chance of people of the opposite gender wanting to hang out with you.

Foam Rolling = Likelihood of this happening soon.  You'll thank me later.  

Step 2: Use your foam roller.  Endurance athletes' bodies (actually, most people's bodies) contain a host of trigger points, scar tissue, and dense tissue (not good) that are a recipe for overuse injury.  Spending time on your foam roller would be better spent than logging those extra miles!

Fortunately, a great video has already been filmed demonstrating most of problem areas you can cover with the foam roller.  The more it hurts, the more this means you need to work on that tissue quality.  But you'll feel incredible after doing this regularly.  I kid you not:

Step 3Begin a strength training program.  Where to begin?  Look on fixing the problem areas discussed in Part 1: create mobile ankles, hips, and thoracic spine with the proper drills.  This can be accomplished in the pre-workout warm-up, or as a "filler" between the primary exercises. 
Also, seek to stabilize the knees and torso through a good lower-body program and core work.  Stick to single-leg exercises primarily.  And avoid those Adductor/Abductor machines like the plague (that is, unless you desire zero results and turning your body into a functional mess). 
How in the world did these things become so popular?

For example, let's take the basic lunge.  It trains the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and even the trunk stabilizers at the same time, all while teaching these muscles (along with the tensor fascia latae, adductors, and quadratus lumborum) to interact as one flawless unit.  Ok, ok, what does this do, in non-geek speak?  As you run, efficiency will be improved via enhanced strength and neural control of these muscles, along with lowering your risk of low back pain, knee pain, and anterior (at the front) hip pain.

Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Anyway, that's all for now.  Don't let yourself become another statistic.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Runners and Resistance Training, Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed how:
  1. Most runners are adamantly opposed to regular strength training, even though they can benefit from it more than most populations.
  2. It is the NORM for the majority of runners to experience an injury throughout a given year, and I challenge that this should be the exception, not the rule, for distance runners. 
  3. The majority runners approach their training as analogous to continually punching the accelerator when the emergency brake is on, which inevitably leads to injury.  
  4. Proper strength training will help “release the brakes,” resulting in a faster, more efficient runner that is also less prone to injury.
Today, I’d like to continue to build the case for why it’s imprudent for a distance runner to ignore the value of a solid strength training routine.  I will begin by addressing the all-too-familiar claim put forth: 
“But my lower body receives all the ‘strength training’ it needs from running.”
This is a simple misunderstanding of basic physiology.

We could go into great detail here, but for brevity’s sake, here are two very important points worth taking note of:
  1. Progressive overload plays an ENORMOUS role in developing muscular strength.
  2. Strength and neural control is - to a great majority - range of motion specific.
How does distance running fail both of these criteria for increasing musculoskeletal strength?
  1. Where is the progressive overload?  The only way I see it possible to add progressive overload in running is to get fatter.
  2. Distance running involves thousands of repetitions through a very small range of motion.  As Eric Cressey has mentioned, “not a single joint in the body passes through an appreciable range of motion in distance running.”  Why should you care about this?  When your joints lose range of motion (think ankles, hips, thoracic spine, and the shoulder), you develop compensation patters that lead to dysfunction elsewhere in the body (knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain, just to name a few). 
An effective resistance training program will develop your muscular strength and connective tissues through a full range of motion, enhance your structural integrity and neural control, resulting in a faster, more efficient running machine that is less prone to injury.  Who wouldn’t want that?!?

And going back to the progressive overload example, running is essentially moving your legs (+ shoes, a submaximal load) through space for thousands of repetitions.  This is supposed to make us stronger?  So, along that same line of thinking: If I want to strengthen my arms, should I just take a wiffle ball (a submaximal load) and curl it for a few thousand repetitions?  Of course not!  So why apply the same logic to running?
Far from progressive overload.

As a quick intermission, here is one of our track athletes, Kayleigh, who is the current state record holder in the 400m sprint.  She is a teenager (female, no less) who understands and appreciates the value of strength training to her success.  By the way, that's 185lbs that she's deadlifting like air.  To the males reading this who only train their chest and biceps, this girl in her early teens will soon enough be picking up heavier things than you!

Also notice that she is FAR from the “big and bulky” mammoth that many women, or runners in general, fear they’ll turn into if they strength train!

Now, before the internet police begin to shout that endurance training does lead to positive changes within human skeletal muscle, I will note that yes, it does.  However, these adaptations primarily aid in helping the athlete run further without fatiguing, as opposed to running more efficiently and becoming more “bullet proof” to injury.  We could get pretty geeky and talk about the histochemical and metabolic transformations that take place at the cellular level (ex. increase in endurance-specific enzymes that enhance oxidative capacity, which is favorable for runners), but I don’t think most of the readers are interested in that.

One other point I’d like to make before wrapping up for the day, and this has been mentioned by many other strength coaches but I feel it never hurts to repeat: you should to be fit to run, not run to get fit. 

Christopher McDougall of Born to Run makes the argument that humans were designed to run long distances.  While I don’t disagree, I challenge that humans also weren’t designed to sit hunched over at desks all day, establishing dysfunction running up the entire kinetic chain, leading to a host of aberrant motor patterns that will negatively impact your running!

A distance as short as two miles requires roughly 3,000 plyometric repetitions with forces of 2-4 times bodyweight.

Do you really expect to take a body that sits for the majority of the day, and place that kind of demand on it - day after day - without accruing some sort of injury?  It’s no wonder the great majority of runners suffer from so many injuries!!

The only way – unless you’re in the 5% of the population that was genetically gifted enough to get away with it – to offset the demand running places on your body is to strength train.

I’m sorry, but there’s no way around it.  How do you expect your body to take that kind of beating (especially under the sheer volume that distance runners perform) without some kind of baseline strength?  And runners are surprised when their IT band acts up, they experience the agony of a stress fracture, or they develop chronic knee pain??

Even for fat loss....
This is also why (and it's a topic for another post) I think steady-state running for fat loss is a markedly poor choice for the overweight person.  If I'm working with a deconditioned client that weighs 300- pounds, you expect me to have them run for 45 minutes while every step requires them to efficiently absorb 600-1200 pounds of force?  I don't think so.  Not even taking it this far, let's say a 150-pound person wants to lose some weight.  That's still 300-600 pounds of force on every step they have to deal with.  It's no wonder why I've read studies that show significant injury rates in the initial phases of poorly-designed fat loss programs. 

Something is working
Many of the athletes we’ve coached at SAPT say we are the greek gods of athletic performance enhancement (okay, I joke, maybe those aren't their exact words).  But, the people who have trained under our roof will tell you how much better their bodies feel and move after a solid training block.  The honest truth is that we just get people stronger, and we do so correctly.   We incorporate all of the components necessary to prepare someone to confidently enter the playing field, or the roads if he or she is a distance runner.  And it’s not just lifting weights.  It's the entire package of movement preparation, corrective exercise, etc. that was discussed in Part 1.

Again, I don't mean to bash distance runners.  You have to respect dedication to any sport.  My earnestness stems from having to constantly answer questions regarding why so-and-so is hurt after a few months of running.  I'm just trying to help people take action before it's too late, as opposed to reaction after the fact. 

That's it for today.  Stay tuned for Part 3!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Runners and Resistance Training, Part 1

It's unfortunate, really, that distance runners - and endurance athletes, in general – could benefit more from a solid strength training program than nearly any other population.  I say this is unfortunate because the majority of distance runners tend to be more adamantly opposed to strength training than almost any other group of people I’ve witnessed.    I’ve heard it all: 
  • “But I’ll get slower if work out in the weight room”
  • “I’ll become ‘big and bulky’ if I lift weights!”
  • “Strength training will interfere with my running” (yes, it certainly could, but only if you don’t understand how to design the program appropriately)
  • “Won’t I gain body fat if I cut back on running and replace it with lifting?”
  • “Well, I get all the ‘strength training’ I need for my lower body through running!”
  • “I don’t have time to strength train”
I can see why these concerns may arise in a distance runner, especially if he or she has never experienced the value of a professional designing his or her strength training program (p.s. most of those programs you read in the magazines don’t count).  However these qualms with strength training tend to be grounded upon emotion, misconceptions, a bad experience, and/or erroneous propaganda as opposed to reason and approaching the topic with no presuppositions. 

Now, I can’t necessarily blame them, as there are many factors outside their control constructing their belief of the relationship between resistance training and running.  However, understand that as a performance enhancement specialist, I write this series in an effort to help the endurance community – not deride them.

Why is it accepted - rather than vehemently challenged - that the majority of runners will experience an injury in the next year?  

Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run, cites multiple statistics claiming over 66% of runners will suffer a serious injury in a given YEAR.  Yet this is just shrugged off by the endurance community as the norm??!  Stress fractures, IT Band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral knee pain, low back pain, and tendonitis plague the bodies of distance runners and yet this seen as “the consequence of the sport??” 

It’s not uncommon to see runners popping ibuprofen like candy, wrapping their knees before every training session, and icing a sore ankle, knee, and/or hip after a run.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to train for longevity, as opposed to desiring that my body turns into a functional mess by the time I’m 40. 

I used to work as a Physical Therapist Aid, and an astonishing percentage of non-surgical patients in therapy were runners!  And you know what the advice of the physical therapist was (on top of rest, ice, and soft tissue work)?  STRENGTH TRAINING. 
Now, I’m aware that when you hear the words “strength training” the first image that comes to mind is a bunch of college boys bench pressing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and incessantly bicep curling away in front of the mirror.  I can’t blame you.  

But understand that a good training plan incorporates movement preparation, corrective exercise, dynamic flexibility, resistance training, core work, cardiovascular work, and recovery/regeneration.  This can be accomplished in as little as two, 75-minute sessions a week (even less if you’re really pressed for time).  
This picture doesn't really have to do with anything, but I'm sure this cat agrees with me.

Most distance runners tend to approach their training by punching the accelerator while the emergency brake is on.
As Alwyn Cosgrove says:  
“All of us in the fitness industry, trainers and trainees alike, have been brainwashed into thinking that the only way to improve results is to push harder. If you aren’t making gains, it’s because you aren’t training hard enough or often enough…The answer to every problem is to punch down harder on the accelerator. 
But think of a car with the parking brake on. If you push harder on the gas pedal, you’ll only run out of fuel quicker, right? But if you take off the brake, the car will go farther and faster, and probably use less fuel in the process."
With runners, this couldn't be more true.  Most runners assume that the answer to faster times, enhancing cardiovascular capacity, and improving running economy is to run more, more, and some more.  

Need to improve my 5k, 10k, or marathon time?  Add more miles each week!  Sure....

How do I lose that extra five pounds to make me faster?  Increase my weekly running frequency!  Sure....

This will keep going.  More miles.  More days per week.  Just continuing to press down on that accelerator while your body is trying to tell you that there is a parking brake lifted and you need to release the brakes before you continue to burn fuel and eventually sustain an injury.  Maybe not even accrue an injury.  Maybe just continue to go about your training in a sub-par manner, requiring your body to do more work than is actually necessary to achieve your goals.  

As Mike Boyle says: "In endurance training, the emphasis is usually high on the quantity side and low on the quality side.  This is the main mistake of endurance athletes in training.  The unfortunate truth is too much steady-state work yields too lifttle benefit and too many injuries."

Well, what are the "parking breaks" in endurance athletes, you ask?  The list includes, but is not limited to:
  • Stiff/immobile ankles.  Poor ankle mobility and ROM is strongly correlated with ankle sprains, tendonitis, and pain/deficiencies further up the kinetic chain (think knees and hips).  Everything starts from the ground up, so don't ignore this area.
  • Unstable knees and hips.  Honestly, I want to cringe when I drive by people jogging on the side of the road.  Knees and feet flailing about since they don't have the hip stabilizers required to keep everything in line and move proficiently.  Knees landing way out of alignment with their feet.  It's terrible.  Not because they look goofy, but because I wonder how long it will be before they need to schedule a visit with the physical therapist.
  • Weak/dormant Glutes.  I'm sad to say we live in a society plagued with "gluteal amnesia."  Steady state running does absolutely nothing to strengthen the glutes, which is a death sentence to running efficiency, low back health, proper knee tracking, and overall structural enhancement (in more ways than one :) ). 
  • Terrible thoracic mobility.  Think range of motion about your spine in the upper back region.  Have problems with the low back, shoulder joint or neck?  Look at what's going on at the thoracic spine.
The list goes on, but my point is you have to release the breaks.  And you can't release them by just tacking on those miles to your training weeks. 

You need a solid resistance training program.  The tricky part is ensuring that the program addresses your needs and, does so with the appropriate frequency, intensity, and volume so that it enhances your body as a running machine as opposed to hindering your training sessions.  Unfortunately the professionals that know how to do this are few and far between.  

I've been there.  
I want to make sure you're aware that I have personally competed in endurance races in the past.  So I'm not just preaching at runners from a completely removed standpoint.  I can also tell you that I placed very well, and my training weeks frequently entailed NO MORE than 2-3 running sessions a week.  How did I do this?  I released the breaks through approriate strength training, followed the 80-20 rule, and ran smart, not hard.  

I can also tell you that every runner that has trained with us at SAPT has seen a DROP in their running times, along with decreased (sometimes eliminated) pain
associated with all the "nagging injuries" they had when they first walked in our doors.  Something is working. 

To be continued in Part 2!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quotes to Inspire a variety of ways


    I'm about to begin a mini-series on strength training for runners (even if you aren't a runner, you'll won't want to miss it!), but in the mean time I thought I'd share some quotes I've taken note of throughout my readings.  This isn't close to an all-inclusive list, but I'm hoping these may inspire you to take a positive action step, or challenge you to think differently about something. 

    Sometimes the world needs a slap.  The musings below are related to training, health, and lifestyle design in general.  They are taken from people in the field of strength and movement sciences that are way more experienced than I (I've listed each source, and then one (or more) quotes by that same person).  I'll let each quote speak for itself, and I challenge you to think critically about at least a few of them:

Dan John
  1. Someday you’re going to pay for the 10,000 crunches you were sure would build a six pack.  Instead, those built a bad lower back.  Ab work does absolutely nothing for you.  Just ask any long-time strength coach.
  2. No one cares.  Seriously, no one cares. Where you place, the medals you get, the contests you win- no one cares. Enjoy life, have a good time. No one cares.
  3. If it’s important, do it every day.
  4. Years ago at a clinic, a young man told me, “Squats hurt my knees.”  I asked him to demonstrate for me, and after he did said bluntly, “Squats don’t hurt your knees; what you are doing hurts your knees.”
  5. Look at your goals.  Look at your behavior.  Does your behavior match your goals?
  6. Occasionally, restart your training with the Zen notion of the beginner’s mind.  Find a book or training article that has a two-week beginner’s program and follow it.  Have a buddy watch your lifting technique, and allow comments.  Hey, here’s one:  During the pull-up, go from straight arms to chin over the bar.  Really, try it that way.  It’s called the right way. (interjection from Steve: Dan John is awesome)
  7. There’s pain and there’s injury.  Learn the difference.
  8. Here’s my ultra-secret training diet regime:  Follow Mom’s rule first!
                 a) Eat breakfast everyday
                 b) Be sure to eat three meals a day
                 c) If you’re hungry an hour or so after a meal, you didn’t eat enough protein
                 d) Water should be your major beverage
                 e) There nothing more fiber can’t cure

Jason Ferruggia
  1. Focus on a handful of exercises from each category and stick with them until you are really good at them and can no longer make progress. This will probably be years.
  2.  (Interjection from Steve: Go back and read #1.  Yes, it's that important).
  3. Stick with programs for more than a few weeks. Months or years might be more appropriate in some cases. This also bears repeating. Too many people are program jumpers and get nowhere.
  4. Find a way to get focused. Somehow, some way. Most people have zero focus and thus zero control of their lives. Don’t be another multitasking, confused, out of control, getting nowhere fast member of society. We have more than enough of those.
  5. Never use weight training for fat loss or “metabolic conditioning.” You lift weights to get bigger, stronger and faster. Remember that.
  6. Train outside more often.
  7. Check email far less often than you do right now.
  8. You should always leave the gym feeling better than when you walked in; not completely wiped out in a pool of your own blood and puke.
    That’s not to say that building a small conditioning component into an effective strength program is a bad thing. Bill Starr was a fan of doing this way back when he was preparing the Baltimore Colts for Super Bowl V.

    But there is an enormous difference between doing heavy sets of five on a bench, squat and clean in a three exercise circuit with appropriate rest periods and a workout that includes following up your five rep set of cleans with a 400 meter run, 20 kettlebell snatches, 35 box jumps, 10 kipping chin ups and a set of burpees.
  9. pullup1.jpg

    The inevitable next questions to follow my “sprint often” recommendations are always:
    “How many sprints?”

    “What distance?”

    “What’s the work to rest ratio?”

    The honest answer is I have no clue. I don’t know what kind of shape you’re in. I don’t know how much grass you have in your neighborhood, how long your hill is, how much experience you have running, how much you weigh, etc.

    If you’re training for football or the 100 meter then we can get more specific....Get outside and start sprinting. Always do a thorough warm up and start slow and easy. I wouldn’t run more than 30-40 yards your first time out. Over time you can add distance to each sprint if you want. Or you can add more reps. Or both. You can also decrease the rest time. There are a million options. The point is to just get it done.
Alwyn Cosgrove
  1. I got punched in the spine once in a Taekwon-Do match. Interesting thing is, my opponent went through my stomach and ribcage to do it. I got real interested in core training after that.
  2. Regardless of pesticides, fructose levels, etc., people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are healthier than those who eat the least. You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that the current obesity epidemic is a result of people eating too many apples!
  3. No one ever improved from just training; they improved from recovering from training. Training plus recovery = results. Pay as much attention to both to really reap the rewards.
  4. The recent trend to do low reps for fat loss is interesting. Actually, a lot of coaches seem to recommend low reps for everything: strength, gaining size, gaining strength without size, fat loss… everything!
    So basically it’s just one program then, eh? Uh, no.
  5. Take training advice only from guys who’ve trained themselves to a reasonably high level or make their living from getting results with real people. Be aware though that “doing” and “coaching” don’t always exist in the same person!  The game changes when it’s “put up or shut up” time and you have to actually get a result in order to put food on the table. A lot of people writing and talking about training have never had to do that. The same is true for business and life in general.
    Okay. I stole this one from Dan John. But if you don’t have the discipline to floss your teeth twice a day (which has been proven beyond any doubt to be worthwhile, not only in terms of dental hygiene, but also in terms of inflammation and heart health), then how do you expect to suddenly develop the discipline to take four pills three times a day to see a small benefit?
  7. Get a foam roller and use it. Don’t worry about the strength, size, or flexibility of your muscles until you work on the quality of the tissue.
  8. Charlie Jones once said, “Five years from now, you will be exactly the same, apart from the people you meet and the books you’ve read.” Read a book a week. Elite coach Mike Boyle once told me though, “Don’t believe everything you read. But definitely don’t just read what you believe.”
  9. Here's a final thing you might not know. It's a basic career/life rule that I live by: The gap between where you are and where you want to be is called Frustration. Frustration is eliminated by Education and Action. Get learning and get doing.
TC Luoma
1.  It's sometimes a lot easier to accept things the way they are, to sit back and complain bitterly to anyone who'll listen, but that's the big difference between people who are happy and people who are miserable. 
I think these people don't realize that it really doesn't take all that much courage to change your life. I don't care if we're talking about working out religiously, changing jobs, getting out of a bad relationship, or moving to a different town. Believe me, you can't lose.
Whatever you do, provided that you stay focused, works out. The only people who lose are the ones who cash in their chips and refuse to play another hand.
It's like the Chinese allegory of the man caught in the rapids. He's managed to grab hold of a rock, but the raging waters are beating him against the rock over and over again. If he doesn't let go, he'll soon die, but he's afraid to let go because he doesn't know what dangers lie downstream.
Let go of the rock.
    That's all for now.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Q & A: Body Part Splits

    Q.  So I was reading your post on body part splits and it made me begin to think. I would like to try to employ a different split because currently I do the body part split mentioned in your post and I just feel like something is missing. Do you have any guidance on a solid program for muscular development and strength? a SAPT bodybuilding workout if you will. I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts on the matter.  Thanks.

    A.  There are a number of ways you could set it up depending on the person/individual scenario.  Here are just a few options:

    Option 1
    Day 1: Lower Body
    Day 2: Off**
    Day 3: Upper Body
    Day 4: Lower Body
    Day 5: Off
    Day 6: Upper Body
    Day 7: Off

    (Ex. Lifting on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday.  You could also just do a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday spread but I prefer the former.)

    Option 2
    Day 1: Full Body
    Day 2: Off
    Day 3: Lower Body
    Day 4: Upper Body
    Day 5: Off
    Day 6: Full Body
    Day 7: Off

    --> Eric Cressey has mentioned this in the past.  This one can be useful to throw in from time to time as it increases the frequency that the upper and lower body is stimulated (frequency is key with regards to muscle growth, as long as intensity is monitored). 

    Option 3***
    Day 1: Full Body (lower body emphasis)
    Day 2: Off
    Day 3: Full Body (upper body emphasis)
    Day 4: Off
    Day 5: Full Body (lower body emphasis)
    Day 6: Off
    Day 7: Off
    **I don't personally think it's ideal to take a true "off" day.  I find the body recovers even more rapidly if you do some sort of movement training on days between lifting.  Now, this isn't an excuse to go run 5 miles or do a bazillion ab exercises, but it's a good time to do some low-intensity sled work, go for a walk, or run through a mobility circuit. 

    ***I'd like to note that these "full body" days aren't incredibly long training sessions where you train every possible muscle.  This is asking for failure as you'd end up performing most of the exercises in a state of fatigue.

    Now, how should you structure each of these training days?  While I can't write out an exact breakdown for you (I don't think we're ready to "give away the keys" to our facility/training methods yet), I can certainly provide a few pointers which should get you well on your way.

    1) As Jim Wendler says (I'm paraphrasing): Every training plan should have a strength component, a hypertrophy (size) component, and a conditioning component.  You're goals will dictate which components you prioritize/de-emphasize.  However, it's an enormous mistake to completely omit any of these three elements.

    For you (and perhaps I'm jumping to conclusions) it seems your main goal is to increase size while at the same time improving strength.  In this scenario, I would prioritize as follows:
    1) Hypertrophy
    2) Strength
    3) Conditioning

    Your "conditioning" should be limited to walking, and some low intensity sled work (if you have access to one).  See the bottom of this post for some videos. 

    2) Exercise Order.  Perform the "strength" portion of the session first, keeping the reps in the 1-5 rep range.  Developing, and maintaining, maximum strength will benefit you whether you're a bodybuilder, distance runner, a figure competitor, professional athlete, or anything in between.  Ex. Squats, Deadlifts, Military/Bench Presses, and even weighted Chins/Pullups will go first.  The exception to this would be if you're performing a "Power" exercise in the session (ex. Dynamic Effort Squats, Power Cleans, 1-Arm DB Snatches, etc.) in which case you would perform that first. 

    3) Prioritize.  Because of your particular goals, I would keep the load around 85-90% of your 1RM for the strength portion of the session, and focus on lifting the weight with perfect form and as quickly as possible (as opposed to grinding out true 3 or 4-rep maxes) as this will still provide plenty of a stimulus to maintain/increase strength, while at the same time it won't burn you out so much that you can't put 100% effort into the assistance exercises (dumbbell presses, rows, single-leg work, etc.) that are going to provide the bulk of the hypertrophy stimulus.

    3) How to break down the training week/days.  Basically, (as noted in the "Rant on Bodypart Splits" post), design your routine based off what your body does, not based on what "part" it is.  This would be pulling, pressing, picking heavy things off the ground, squatting, and single-leg work (as most of life - and sport - takes place on one leg).  Throughout the course of your week, ensure that you include both horizontal and vertical pulling (think row variations and pullup/pulldown variations), horizontal and vertical pressing (think bench and overhead pressing), quad dominant movements (squats, lunges and their variations), hip/hamstring dominant exercises (deadlifts and their variations) and core work.  Balance these as much as possible throughout a training week, and even (preferably) pull more than you press.

    4) Volume.  Keep the total working sets roughly between 12-22 sets for a single session, and this includes your core or direct arm work.  This is probably much less volume than you're used to seeing in the routines you'll find in the bodybuilding magazines (but there's a reason most of those routines don't work for non-pharmaceutical abusing individuals).  I would aim a bit on the higher side for the upper body (as you have more joints to worry about, ex. the muscles that cross the shoulder joint, and the muscles that cross the elbow joint) and a bit on the low side for the lower body (takes longer to recover, and lower body lifts are, in general, more taxing to the central nervous system).  I wouldn't remain on the high side of the spectrum for more than a week or so, though, as it's a good idea to slightly fluctuate the volume throughout the course of a month.  

    5) Isolation lifts.  Put your isolation lifts (curls, extensions, etc.) at the end of the training session.  Or, you could have a "Vanity Day" at the end of the week where you bring out your inner bodybuilder and perform some shoulder raises, curls, etc. 

    Honestly, I think it's unnecessary to perform a lot of direct arm work.  I find that I - and most people - can still develop plenty of arm size through heavy chins/pullups, and the pressing variations. 

    Let's take the standard Bicep Curl vs. the Chinup.  Both exercises require the exact same bicep function to execute the lift: elbow flexion.  Now, when we consider that mechanical loading plays an enormous factor in muscle growth, which exercise do you think will load the biceps more?  The small amount of weight on the barbell for your curl, or your entire body weight during the chinup?  I don't know about you, but my vote goes to the chinup. 

     Chinups before curls.  Always. 
    It's not that isolation lifts for the arms are completely useless.  I'll toss them in from time to time, although they probably comprise about 3% of my training (no sarcasm here).  I just don't think they should be a staple of good program, and I think dedicating an entire training day to "arms" is asinine at best.

    I even find that usually I do more harm than good if I do too much direct arm work.  (Warning: Geek Alert) For example, both of the biceps tendons (the "long head" and "short head") connect to the shoulder.  More specifically, to the coracoid process (where the pec minor also attaches), and to another region of the scapula called the supraglenoid tubercle.  Both of these points of attachment are surrounded by the deltoids, as well as mixed in with the rotator cuff muscles.  My point is that if you don't plan your sessions appropriately and this region becomes overused, this can lead to chronic shoulder problems over the long-haul (again, this topic deserves an article on its own).  The shoulder joint encompasses a jam-packed network of tendons, nerves, and muscles.  In short, you're playing with fire if you don't monitor use of this area.


    6.  You can use a Prowler (or any homemade sled, for that matter) to increase your training frequency (an important factor for growth), without significantly impeding your body's recovery process.  This is because you can perform a lot of exercises with the sled that have no eccentric component to them.  The eccentric phase of a lift (think the lowering portion of a squat) is where the most muscle damage occurs.  So, you could add in Sled Work to your "Off Days" in order to provide another growth stimulus, and rarely negatively impact the next training session.  This is why many powerlifters utilize sled pushes for some conditioning/GPP sessions on their off days - it doesn't leave them too sore/tired the following day.  

    See the videos below demonstrating some sled work.  The first is a "Prowler Tug-of-War", using a thick rope.  This is great for developing your upper back, and you'll get some work done for the biceps, too.  It also provides a bit of a grip challenge.  Not to mention, it's fun!

    The second video shows a small sampling of other possible exercises.  If you really must bring out the inner bodybuilder and do a lot of volume, this is how I would accumulate most of the "excess volume."  You can easily hit your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, back, chest, arms - you name it - with the sled.  I've just demonstrated a couple of the exercises here:

    Again, as I've mentioned in the past, the actual way you divide your training isn't the greatest contributer to results.  It is the effort and dedication to required to "show up" even when it's the last thing your mind is telling you to do.  However, I do hope this shed some light on a better way to set up your training plan.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    It's All About the Glutes

    When Bret Contreras first wrote this article (warning: don't read it unless you're reasonably geeky and aren't "internet ADD"), I thought he was nuts - along with many other strength coaches across America.  After all, who spends over 10 years (that isn't a paid researcher) reading almost every study, article, or book ever written on the glutes, and hooks up electrodes to his own butt to measure which exercises elicit the greatest glute involvement?!

    Not to mention, very rarely had people ever trained the glutes the way that Bret suggested we should, and I am always skeptical when so called "new and improved" exercises hit the public.  The basics have worked for centuries, and this isn't going to change anytime soon.  

    The point is that this series of experiments revolutionized the way that strength coaches train people's glutes.  Basically, we've had it all wrong for quite a while now.  As Bret mentions in the article:
    "Despite the fact that the gluteus maximus muscles are without a doubt the most important muscles in sports and the fact that strength coaches helped popularized "glute activation," none of them have a good understanding of glute training..."
    "..And second, athletes' glutes are pathetically weak and underpotentialized. Even people who think they have strong glutes almost always have very weak glutes in comparison to how strong they can get through proper training."
    The cool thing, too, is that there were real-world improvements in athlete's performance when coaches began to train the glutes the way Bret teaches in the article (I make a point of this because there are many things that occur in the "scientists labs" that don't actually pan out in real life scenarios).

    It makes sense, too, as (noted in the article) the gluteus maximus muscles are heavily involved in some of the most important movements in sport: sprinting, leaping, cutting from side to side, and twisting (the "geeky" way to describe this is that the glutes function to produce hip extension, hip hyperextension, hip transverse abduction,  hip abduction, and hip external rotation). 

    So, after reading (and scoffing at, initially) about the way we "should" be training the glutes, I gave it a shot.  After all, if Bret was right, this would mean enormous advancements in improving people's athletic performance, low back health, physique enhancement, and quite a few other bonuses. 

    After spending about a year training my glutes with more focus than I ever had in the past, I was shocked with the results.  Below are two of the best exercises (after progressing appropriately) one can perform for stronger glutes: the Barbell Glute Bridge and the Barbell Hip Thrust. 

    Here's a 555lb Glute Bridge:

    You can then increase the range of motion the glutes have to work through (thus having to lower the weight).  Here's a 435lb Hip Thrust:

    Now, it is imperative that one knows how to properly use his or her glutes to do these exercises.  Otherwise, the low back will take over the force production and this is a recipe for injury.  I often joke on bodybuilders for their touting of the "mind-muscle" connection in lifting, but I actually have to say that this is of extreme importance in glute training.  Weighted glute movements are phenomenal tools, but you need to know how to actually use your glutes (trust me, you're probably worse than you think) before attempting these.

    It's all about cracking walnuts
    The cue I give myself (and anyone I coach) during any bridge variation is to "Crack a Walnut" between the butt cheeks.  I wish I could remember where I got this coaching cue from, because it is brilliant.  For some reason, people don't know how to bridge correctly when I say "use your glutes," but as soon as I say "crack a walnut between your butt cheeks" they know exactly what to do!  As funny as it is, it's actually key to do this to ensure you're not just hyperextending your low back to achieve the range of motion desired.  

    Below is a BRIEF listing of some of the bodyweight progressions you can use (for more exercises, as well as suggested sets and reps, go back and read the article linked above):

    How do YOU benefit (regardless of your occupation)?
    So why should anyone really care about this stuff?  Whether or not you're an athlete, effective glute training provides incredible benefits.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll quote "the Glute Guy" himself:

    "Athletic performance
    • Strong glutes will help you jump higher and farther
    • Strong glutes will help you run faster and with more efficiency
    • Strong glutes will help you cut faster from side to side
    • Strong glutes will help you rotate faster, which means throwing faster and farther, swinging faster, and striking faster
    • Strong glutes will help you lift heavier loads in the gym

    Physique enhancement
    • Possessing a nice butt separates you from the pack. It’s actually quite rare to find someone with an amazing butt, and both sexes will agree that when they’re in the presence of such a booty, it’s hard to look away! Our primal urges kick in and our hormones go into overdrive.
    • If you want to look “athletic,” then you need glutes. The Men’s Health and Women’s Health look is all the rage these days for the general public, and you can’t achieve this look by just jogging and doing push ups and sit ups.
    • Figure competitors typically lose their glutes when they diet down. They need extra glute mass to counteract this phenomenon.

    General health and injury prevention
    • Strong glutes encourage good lifting mechanics and less low-back rounding, which spares the spine and decreases low back pain and injury
    • Strong glutes prevent knee caving (Valgus collapse) which decreases the likelihood of knee (patellofemoral) pain and knee injury such as ACL tears. Strong glutes also spare the knee joint by encouraging proper lifting form and having the hips share the load when lifting rather than having the knee joint take on the brunt of the load
    • Strong glutes are one of the keys to overall structural health, as they set the stage for proper mechanics. Failing to use the glutes results in postural distortions (Lower-cross syndrome) which goes hand in hand with upper cross syndrome and can lead to groin strains, shoulder issues, spinal issues, Sciatica, and hip pain (anterior femoral glide syndrome)
    • Sound lifting mechanics involves using the glutes, which is a large, active muscle group, and good form is actually more costly from a metabolic perspective in comparison to lifting in ways that don’t involve the glutes, so strong glutes burn more calories during everyday movement which will help get you leaner"

    I would also like to add myself that glute strength aids in injury risk reduction of the hamstrings.  How many of you know someone that has been through a hamstring pull/strain/tear?  My guess is the great majority.  One of the leading contributing factors to hamstring injuries is poor glute function!  Both the hamstrings and glutes function extend the hip in sprinting.  However, when the glutes aren't doing their full job, the hamstrings will try to "take over" the movement and bear the brunt of the force production.  The physiological term for this is "synergistic dominance."  This usually results in some sort of hamstring injury and one point or another.

    I'd say this is plenty reason to begin glute training!  If you walk into SAPT,  you're likely to see many athletes - as well as adults - performing some variation of glute bridging.  Many of our high school guys are Barbell Bridging 300lbs+, and we've had quite a few females hit the 135lb mark.  

    Now (and I'll end with this), glute variations are no substitute for proper squatting, deadlift variations, and single-leg work when it comes to effective strength training.  However, when combined with the staple lifts, this creates an outstanding synergistic effect in enhancing athletic performance.

    Now go start training those glutes.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Some more videos...

    So I'm a bit behind, as we've been swamped at SAPT getting the baseball and lacrosse guys ready for the upcoming competitive season, as well as having an influx of adult clientele beginning training with us.  Don't worry, I'll be posting some articles on glute training as well as training for runners in the near future!  For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy a couple more vids I've stumbled across. 

    Outrageous. This video isn't technically training related, but one would definitely have to possess some relative strength and reactive ability to do this. Not to mention, have a few screws loose in the head. Outrageous is what comes to mind when I watch this. Just see for yourself. I don't know why they even bothered using wires in filming The Matrix when there are people like this running around.

    Ross, again.  I recently picked up some furniture slider pads to use. These provide a great way to mimic various Slideboard exercises, as well as some others that couldn't even be performed on a Slideboard.  I am going to add them to my "travel kit" as they take up very little space and yet open up a host of exercises one could perform while on the road. Below is Ross Enamait demonstrating some of the possibilities with the slider pads.

    Pistols. When I first learned pistol squats I had no idea they could be taken to the level that this guy takes them. I personally think it's stupid to do something like this, but, nonetheless, it's still cool to watch.

    Stay tuned!

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Two Videos: Inspiration and Strength

    Below is an incredible (*understatement*) video of a guy, Zach Krych, who defied the initial prognosis of a surgeon after he sustained a training injury.  The video shows the injury, and the steps taken to push human potential.  It is well worth your time.

    Next, is a video displaying some phenomenal strength developed by using only a pullup bar for equipment.  Quite impressive!  My favorite part (not that any of the video is anything short of outstanding) has to be the slow and controlled muscle-up Nikolay performs.  The movement is already quite difficult to perform when doing it explosively, let alone moving at a very slow speed.

    Hope you enjoyed!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Know Your ABC's: Pallof Press Progression

    The other day I was coaching an athlete that Chris (the other strength coach at SAPT) had programmed for.  As I looked down the program to give the guy instructions on his next exercise pairing, I saw a core exercise that made me say "Huh...Why didn't I think of that?!"  Chris, as usual, had come up with something very creative. 

    It's an Anti-Rotation Press (or, Pallof Press), but - while holding the band away from your chest - you "trace" the alphabet in capital letters.  This takes the standard Anti-Rotation Press (one of my favorite exercises for improving stabilization of the spine), and progresses it a bit further by implementing yet another function of our abdominals: stabilization of the spine while the extremities (be it the hands or feet) are moving and producing or receiving force (similar to the bracing drill with the partner+rope I showed a few weeks ago).  

    This is pretty much the same idea as the "Stir the Pot" exercise, where you hold yourself in a plank position but move your arms in a circle:

    I would begin by only tracing part of the alphabet (ex. "A-J"), and then switch sides and repeat.  You can progress this further by tracing more letters, moving the feet closer together, or performing it from the "Tall Kneeling" position (shown in the video).  If using a resistance band (as I am in the video), you could make it more difficult by moving your arms slowwwly, as the band constantly wants to "pull" your arms close to the anchor point.

    I have yet to try this using a cable column, so I can't proclaim if this exercise works equally well on a cable apparatus.  I can say that the resistance band is a great choice for this exercise, as the band provides variable resistance as you trace the letters (depending on how close/far away your hands move from the anchor point)


    Friday, January 7, 2011

    My Coach Says I Shouldn't Lift?

    With Baseball and Softball season quickly approaching, I'd like to post a short article by Eric Cressey.  Cressey is a phenomenal strength coach up in the Boston area, who has helped/is helping many professional, collegiate, and high school baseball players on the road to success.  

    While the article is addressing baseball parents/players, the reality is that his advice applies directly to ANY sport.  It is extremely unfortunate that the "lifting is a waste of time" or "flat out dangerous" myths are still incredibly pervasive in society.  The fact of the matter is that proper and effective strength training could not be more useful to an athlete's development.  No matter the age of the individual.  The problem may lie in that there are still relatively few "professionals" who know how to effectively strength train their clients.  Anyway, here is Cressey's post:

    "I got this question in person from the parent of a new athlete the other day and thought I’d turn it into a blog post, as I’ve received the email before on many occasions.

    Q: I read with great interest your blog on Crossfit for Baseball, but my question would be what your response would be to a coach that insists that baseball players shouldn’t lift weights PERIOD?  My son’s baseball coach is completely against it.

    A:  This is definitely going to be one of those “where to even begin” responses, but I’ll do my best.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll start with a quote directly from my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training:
    “…resistance training exercises performed on stable surfaces have been demonstrated effective in numerous research studies with respect to improving a variety of athletic qualities, including:
    • muscular strength (5)
    • power (5)
    • aerobic endurance (53)
    • running efficiency (54)
    • anaerobic endurance (5)
    • rate of force development (66,90)
    • hypertrophy (5)
    • reactive strength (66,90)
    • agility (47)
    These qualities transfer to improved performance in a variety of sporting tasks, including vertical jump (74), throwing velocity (79), sprinting speed (22), and running economy (53).”
    (FYI, these numbers are references from the e-book, so if any of you would like the exact studies, please just request them in the comments section)

    Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that your coach IS NOT looking to field a team that lacks agility, sprinting speed, jumping prowess, throwing velocity, rate of force development (think of a catcher’s pop time).  In fact, even those who are clinging to a worthless training initiative like long-distance running for pitchers can get closer to their chosen training effect (as silly as it is) from lifting!

    Taking this a step further, we know that resistance training can enhance immune and endocrine function, so players will get sick less often and feel better when game time rolls around.

    And, just as importantly, remember that resistance training is one of the foundations of modern physical therapy.  Would your coach tell a physical therapist that resistance training as part of a rehabilitation program was inappropriate? Of course not!  How in the world it is within his scope of practice to tell a kid that lifting is bad for him – either in terms of increasing injury potential or decreasing performance – is completely beyond me.  Throwing a baseball is the single-fastest motion in sports; you simply don’t decelerate 7,500 degrees/second of humeral internal rotation without at least a bit of muscular contribution.

    And, let’s not forget that an ideal strength and conditioning program encompasses a lot more than just lifting weights. It includes good self massage work (foam rollers, etc), mobility training, sprinting/agility/plyos, and much, much more.  It begins with a detailed assessment to determine what mobility or stability deficits may lead to injury down the road.  It may also be the only avenue through which an athlete learns proper nutrition.

    The fundamental problem is that many baseball coaches think of garbage like this when they hear the words “lifting weights:”
    (interjection from Steve: The purpose of this video is to show what ASININE advice looks like, and why so many people still see weight training as ridiculous/"so easy a caveman could do it"

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



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

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

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

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

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

    I hope everyone has a great weekend!  I'll be back next week with some new exercises, other core progressions, my "Top 10 Exercises for Runners."