22 More Random Thoughts
by Eric Cressey
In my first Random Thoughts article, I mentioned how my approach to nutrition and strength and conditioning was much like that of George Carlin when it came to comedy: I really had no transitional material.
In honor of this great comedian's passing in mid-June, it seemed only fitting to toss out an equally random sequel.
And Off We Go...
1. When spotting, don't ever shout out, "It's all you." In fact, don't say it at all at any time in your life. Those in the know realize that when this phrase is used, it was never, in fact, "all them." Rather, this is what frat boys who bench three times a week say to justify their existence.
From now on, when you feel the urge to say, "It's all you," just substitute the phrase, "I'm weak and have never kissed a girl."
The shock value will be the same, but the rest of us won't have to do any extra mental work to interpret the real meaning of your statement.
2. If your elbow hurts, look first at shoulder dysfunction and soft tissue restrictions in the forearms and triceps. Or, just stop leaning on your elbow so much; your ulnar nerve hates you.
3. Without him knowing it, I recently convinced one of our high school athletes to do the YMCA dance as a shoulder health series. At the time, it was just us goofing around — and the video was really amusing (I promised him I wouldn't share it).
In hindsight, though, I was probably on to something:
Y: Lower trap activation, thoracic extension
M: Pec minor length, thoracic extension
C: Internal rotation range of motion
A: Lat length, thoracic extension
I haven't really taken the time to break down the Macarena or Funky Chicken yet, but I think it's safe to say that the Electric Slide will get your glute medius firing a bit.
4. It's all you!
Okay, maybe not. See how stupid that sounded?
5. Eccentric stress in sports is what causes the most marked losses in range of motion, particularly in high-velocity sports. For instance, with baseball pitchers, the goal in-season is to minimize the loss of internal rotation at the shoulder, extension at the elbow, and internal rotation and flexion at the hip.
Why? These are the exact movements the pitcher is attempting to decelerate (eccentric muscle action) with each pitch.
Effectively, keeping guys healthy is largely a function of "length and strength" of these decelerating muscles.
6. A high school female athlete recently walked in with a training program she got from a national camp. While I could've poked a ton of holes in the program, the thing that stuck out to me the most was the fact that it included three sets of ten on inverted rows.
You see, I can count on one hand the number of female high school athletes I've ever seen who can do one inverted row in good form. So, the logical progression is to recommend ten for all of the female athletes in this age group. Riiiiight.
7. Okay, I can't resist; that program also included the following progression for side bridges:
Week 1: 60 seconds per side
Week 2: 75 seconds per side
Week 3: 90 seconds per side
Week 4: 105 seconds per side
It was then that I realized that I'd been wrong all along in training this athlete for her chosen sport. Apparently, this coach had seen something I hadn't, and she was clearly better suited for fame and fortune as a professional side-bridger.
Seriously, folks, if you can do a side bridge for one minute and 45 seconds, you don't need to be doing side bridges anymore — or you at least ought to find some way to make them harder. Try a one-leg side bridge, at the very least.
8. Last month, I attended Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic's wedding. Also in attendance was Lou Schuler, who (along with Alwyn Cosgrove) co-authored The New Rules of Lifting for Women with Cass.
Lou and I got to talking about career stuff while we were waiting in line, and he offered some of the best professional advice that I'd ever received. While you're probably thinking that I'm going to tell you what he told me, that's not the case. Rather, I just wanted to remind you that surrounding yourself with barbequed dead animal flesh always brings out the best in a man.
9. This stretch for the hip external rotators looked awesome when I first saw it:
Then, I tried it out, and it felt like someone had put my junk in a trash compactor. Some things just look so much better on paper, so I went with the bilateral version instead.
10. The stretch above is great for powerlifters, hockey and soccer players, and anyone else who tends to walk with their feet "turned out." For a lot of guys, it's an ankle mobility issue, but in many cases, it's just a function of the hip being stuck in external rotation and the entire lower leg going along for the ride.
I also use it a lot with pitchers, as external rotator contracture causes guys to open up too early on their lead leg, which can throw shoulders, elbows, and lower backs under the bus.
11. Recently, I wrote medicine ball push-ups into a program for an online consulting client. He replied to me that they didn't have a single medicine ball in their gym (but he did jokingly observe that they had dozens of BOSU and stability balls).
This not only reiterated the fact that most gyms are designed by people who have no clue, but also made me realize how spoiled I am to have over a dozen medicine balls and an 18-foot concrete wall in our facility.
I don't care why you train; this stuff is fun and has great carryover to the real world.
12. Your balls still suck. Ha!
13. When I was in Ireland earlier this year, an 18-year-old guy come up to me and asked if I minded showing him the proper technique for a cable crossover. I just asked him how much he benched, and he replied with "85kg" (187 pounds and he weighed about 200).
Doing cable crossovers at that point is roughly the equivalent of preparing for the SAT with a coloring book.
14. One quick way to tell if an athlete is locking their shoulder blades down and back enough while benching is to put a piece of tape across the bench in line with the top of their head. If they slide up, you'll see that they aren't locked in enough; this is particularly noticeable on sets with multiple reps.
In the video below, you'll see that not locking the shoulder blades in place doesn't just change head position, but it also allows the scapulae to tilt anteriorly (forward) at the bottom of each rep. Over time, this can beat up the anterior capsule of the shoulder.
Getting the lower traps strong and working on length and tissue quality of the pec minor can make it easier to fix this technique flaw.
15. A 16-year-old hockey player I just started training told me that he had previously gone to a personal trainer who gave him an arm day. After some consideration, I've come to the conclusion that this fleecing of his parents' money was ethically on par with violating him with a rusty coat hanger.
16. My all-time favorite personality is the "Always Changing Programs Guy" (also known as "ACPG" or the "Acronym Guy").
When observed in his natural habitat, he may be doing OVT one second, and then move on to NNM, ABBH, GVT2000, or HST-100 at a moment's notice. This guy needs less ADD, and a nice WCSTHU (warm cup of shut the hell up).
You have one ass, dude; pick a saddle.
17. Would you believe that in 2002, there was $283 million in salary wasted on players on the disabled list in major league baseball — a total of over 24,000 days of lost "work" (which equates to roughly 65 days per player).
You know what else? That's a lot of worker's compensation being paid. And you can bet that the numbers are even higher now with increasing salaries and inflation.
18. Some people disagree with the "new age" concept of training the lower back for stability and not mobility, saying that sit-ups, crunches, sidebends, and lumbar rotation training is acceptable.
Here's a different perspective for them:
If you crack your radius and ulna at the middle of your forearm, they put you in a cast to lock those bones in position so that they can heal properly. Nobody ever argues with that approach. Think about what it is, though. In fracturing those bones, you've taken a segment of the body that was designed for stability and made it mobile. So, the solution to heal the problem is to lock up the area temporarily to condition it for long-term effective force transfer.
You know what happens when a young athlete gets spondylolysis (vertebral fracture) at the lumbar spine? They put them in a brace like this:
In other words, they lock up a hypermobile segment of the body to return it to a physiological "norm" — and the healing rates are very good. It makes a lot of sense, as most of these injuries occur in athletes with poor hip and thoracic mobility who must go to the lumbar spine to get the range of motion they lack. Maybe if more people did their "core training" as if they were in a back brace like this, we'd see fewer lower back injuries.
19. 99% of the young athletes who walk in to Cressey Performance for the first time don't know how to do a correct push-up. If you have a son or daughter and want to do them a great justice, teach good push-up form early on.
Key points: chin tucked, eyes look directly down at the floor, upper arms at a 45-degree angle to the torso, hips up (not sagging), and the chest reaches the floor first.
20. Along those same lines, the best coaches are needed with the youngest athletes, as they're the most impressionable in terms of motor and psychological development. A bad coach at the college or professional level simply gets fired, and the athletes move on. A bad coach in the grade-school and adolescent years can make a kid dislike exercise for life and set him up for a host of chronic and traumatic injuries thanks to poor technique and overuse.
21. Contrary to what Tony Gentilcore may try to tell you, nobody has ever gotten strong listening to techno while they train. Quit popping your collars and let it go, people.
22. In those who are more flexion intolerant (e.g., disc herniation patients), once they've been cleared for return to exercise, it's a good idea to start them with some exercises that encourage extension — and getting the arms up does exactly that.
I really like overhead dumbbell reverse lunges:
You can also do dumbbell overhead step-ups and walking lunges (with one or two arms held overhead). Shoulder strength and endurance are often the limiting factor, so automatically people can't be stupid and add too much compressive loading right off the bat.
Eventually, you progress to reverse lunges with a front squat grip:
Important note: This load would not be appropriate for someone right after they get cleared for exercise! This is a guy with a 430-pound front squat and 40-inch vertical jump, as a frame of reference.
The End of the Ride
And in an appropriately random fashion, I'll end on #22. Rest assured, though, there'll be more to come.
About the Author
Eric Cressey is a highly sought-after strength and conditioning coach and owner of Cressey Performance, just west of Boston. Eric has worked with athletes of all levels, from youth sports to the professional and Olympic levels. Feel free to contact him and sign up for his free newsletter at EricCressey.com, and check out the daily updates at his blog.
Eric's new book, Maximum Strength, is available alongside his other products in the Biotest store.
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