Well, it has been a while since the last time I posted something on here! I kept telling myself I was gonna get back into it for a while, but you know… Anyways, let’s get straight to the point with this post! The ability to pack the shoulder is pretty important in a bunch of different lifting exercises; deadlift, chest press, and famer carries variations are just a couple examples. When doing corrective exercises for the shoulder like rhythmic stabilization it is also important to be able to pack the shoulder properly. I see compensation patterns in many athletes when trying to pack the shoulder. As someone who works with a baseball population, I need to make sure my players are able to do that properly so they can perform optimally and prevent injuries. Shrugging is definitely one of the most common compensations I see. It’s easily recognizable, and fairly easy to fix for most. If this is how you pack the shoulder….
Houston, we have a problem!
Another common compensation I see a lot, but I think goes unnoticed pretty often, is excessive extension at the thoraco-lumbar (TL) junction. If the athlete is wearing a loose shirt, or if you’re watching from certain angles, you might not even recognize it. When that happens, the ribs will also flare out. I wrote a post a while ago called What’s Wrong with Keeping your Chest Up? that went into details about that, so you might want to check it out.
The point I really want to get to with this post is that shoulder packing might be something that needs some isolated work in itself before you program exercises that integrate the packed the shoulder position. It might not always be necessary, but for me, with the population I work with who have a lot of shoulder dysfunctions, it sometimes is more than necessary to address it separately until the athlete is able to demonstrate functional execution of the packed shoulder.
One drill I really like for this is a basic kettlebell packing drill. You assume a lying position, like you would to initiate a Turkish Get Up, and you protract and retract the shoulder while monitoring the ribs with your other hand. That way you make sure you’re not compensating with some back/TL extension and the ribs don’t flare out as you retract. You also need to make sure the athlete is not shrugging while retracting or protracting the shoulder. Here’s what it looks like:
Give that exercise a shot if you see some dysfunctional shoulder packing with your clients or athletes. Also don’t hesitate to leave some feedback below!
I know you’ve been waiting for it, so without further ado here is the final part of The 10 Best Things at Endeavor!
5. The connections. Before working at Endeavor, I really didn’t know many people in the industry, and sure enough pretty much no one knew who I was. After a couple months, Kevin Neeld pushed me into starting my own blog, and I didn’t really know back then why he was being insistent on it. Fast forward 2 and half years, and now I understand. Sure it’s cool because you get to share your knowledge, but most importantly it puts your name out there and allows you to create you contacts within the field. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m far from being the most knowledgeable guy out there even though sharing my knowledge is the original intent. But getting in touch so many like-minded people is the main reason why I keep doing it. My internet presence combined with attending seminars and the help of Kevin, who has introduced me to so many smart people in the business, are another reason why Endeavor was so awesome to me.
4. The Road Trips. I mentioned on #6 that it was nice to host seminars because you didn’t have to travel, but quite honestly there’s something about road trips that I just love! It does take a beating on you to spend 8, 10, 12 hours in the car in one day, but when you have good company, good music, decent weather, and the appropriate amount of stimulants road trips are A LOT of fun.
We always end up having great discussions, and it always does great to take my mind off of whatever is stressing me out, kinda like a mini-vacation. Over the last 3 years we made road trips to Raleigh, Youngstown (OH), Chicago, Wilkes-Barre (PA), North Jersey, Baltimore, and Boston (on multiple occasions). It’s been a blast, and definitely one of the best memories I keep from Endeavor….especially the one time we challenged Matt Siniscalchi to find beer at 1 in the morning (if you know him just ask him to tell you the story!).
3. The Learning. Since I started working in this field it’s always been clear to me that continuing education had to be a top priority in order to keep getting better and be successful. I always had that at heart and was always reading and attending seminars. But honestly it’s not like I was hunting for continuing education opportunities; whenever I came across something that seemed interesting, I would buy it (or attend in the case of a nearby seminar). But oh did I step up my game when I started at Endeavor! I started learning at a much faster rate than I ever had. At this point these days, I feel bad when one day goes by and I didn’t read something to help me get better. Being surrounded by hungry like-minded coaches, and especially sharing an office with Kevin who’s more dedicated than anybody I know at learning new stuff, helped me kick my game up a couple notches.
2. The Athletes. My experience at Endeavor would not be complete without the hundreds of unbelievable athletes I’ve had the chance to coach in the last 3 years. There wasn’t many athletes walking through our door who weren’t extremely dedicated and focused on becoming a better (insert sport) player. There is a big camaraderie component that was developed with all of them over time. And thanks to them I will forever be famous for the “chest up” and “belly tight” coaching cues inside the walls of Endeavor (mostly because of my French-Canadian accent), as you can hear at the beginning of the following video:
And finally, as number one……(drum roll)
1. The Staff. This is the main reason why Endeavor as been such an unbelievable experience for me. From day one when I moved to a new country to pursue my dream, the guys at Endeavor made me feel at home. They have been there for me and helped every step of the way into integrating myself to this new job, and really a new life. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be where I am today. Through fun times or tough times, with this crew that has always been wayyy more like friends than they ever been colleagues, I have shared everything. Road trips, seminars, after-hour “meetings”, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, the ups and downs of building a business, the playoff beards, etc; it’s been a blast. I will never be thankful enough for what they did for me. They will be friends forever. Thanks for all the memories guys!
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I am leaving Endeavor at the end of this week to pursue a great opportunity and a new challenge in my career as a strength and conditioning coach. As of next Wednesday, I am heading South-West to work with the Arizona Diamondbacks. I am extremely pumped for this new job, and I have heard so many great things about the organization that it just adds up to the excitement. It is clear that I would not be where I am today and I would have never had this opportunity in the first place if I didn’t have the experience I had at Endeavor Sports Performance these last 3 years. Needless to say that I am a little sad to leave my colleagues (who really are more friends than anything else) and all the athletes I’ve been coaching these last couple of years, who quite frankly feel more like my own kids. The good thing is I’ll be back at Endeavor during the baseball off-season, so it’s not like I’m leaving forever.
That being said, I felt like writing a top 10 of all the great things Endeavor brought me over the last 3 years. Here are number 10 to 6 in this 2-part series.
10. The Lab. Working in a private setting allows you to pretty much do whatever you want. You don’t have anyone telling you what the training goals should be or what to include in the programs you write. This gave me, and the other coaches, the chance to play around with a lot of different stuff, doing a lot of trial and error and basically experimenting with whatever we felt like. In this ever evolving industry, and being surrounded by like-minded coaches who thrive at getting better, we come across a lot of new information. Having this kind of setting to experiment with new stuff has been great. I can say with an unbiased opinion that the experiment that turned out to be the most successful was the squat and denim experiment: indeed, squatting in jeans shorts has been proven to increase raw strength by 12.7%.
9. The Facility. We moved into a new facility this past summer, and I must admit that it’s pretty darn close to being the perfect facility. All open space, a big turf area, and all the necessary equipment we need to design effective training programs, and coach efficiently.
8. The Educational Videos. Most of you know that a majority of the staff at Endeavor has a decent internet presence (including myself, Kevin Neeld, and Matt Sinischalchi). This is a way for us to share our knowledge through our own blogs, social medias, and most importantly the educational videos we put together…like this one:
7. Getting Stronger. I haven’t hit any PR’s recently, which coincides with the absence of our, once daily, staff lifts. During my first year and a half to 2 years at Endeavor, we were always lifting together as a staff, and I was making really good strength gains. The atmosphere, the music, lifting with guys who have similar goals and are dedicated made a huge difference in my progress. Don’t underestimate that. This really isn’t that heavy, but was still a PR for me:
6. Hosting seminars. We hosted the Myokinematic Restoration course from the Postural Restoration Institute this past November. This was the first ever seminar held at Endeavor, but it seems like it’s going to be only the beginning; Endeavor is hosting Rock Tape this upcoming weekend and Pelvic Restoration from PRI in April that unfortunately I’m going to miss both, and Postural Respiration from PRI next October. Seminars are always a great way to learn while connecting with like-minded people, and when you don’t have to travel for it, it’s a pretty sweet deal!
Stay tuned for number 5 through 1 coming up in a couple days!
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Overhead pressing can take a beating on your shoulders. Any overhead pressing movement usually puts more stress on your shoulders than horizontal pressing variations. Some people stay away from overhead pressing because it bothers their shoulders, while some others avoid it simply because they can’t get to the overhead position due to tissue restrictions or lack of mobility.
Personally overhead pressing has always felt weird on my shoulders. It doesn’t really hurt and I never had ensuing shoulder problems, but there’s always some cracking or grinding going on in at least one of my shoulders. Whether I use a barbell or dumbbells, it seems to be about the same.
That was until I started using kettlebells for overhead pressing. Because the handle is not in the middle of the center of mass of the implement like it is with a dumbbell, the weight is offset from where you hold the weight. That forces a higher recruitment of stabilizer muscles at the shoulder, and it makes the pressing motion feel more natural and more stable. Ever since I started using kettlebells to overhead press I haven’t had any cracking or grinding whatsoever when overhead pressing with a kettlebell; so I try to stick with the KB whenever possible.
The variations are endless as you can perform the overhead press with 1 arm, 2 arms, in a half-kneeling position, tall-kneeling, sitting, standing, etc. Also what’s very interesting with the kettlebells for overhead pressing is that you have 2 different grips you can use: normal/rack or bottoms up.
Give these KB overhead press variations a shot, and let me know how they feel!
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The baseball off-season is coming to an end. We had a bunch of baseball players work their butt off during the last couple of months at Endeavor, and they’re looking forward to taking all the gains they made with their training out on the field.
The way I write programs, I usually separate the off-season into 3 different phases where each phase has a different focus; the early off-season, the mid off-season and the late off-season. The early off-season is usually the shortest one of all 3 phases and puts almost all the emphasis on recovering from the previous season, fixing imbalances, recuperate, etc. The mid off-season is usually the longest phase and is where the heavy lifting comes into play, and we keep the focus on increased maximal strength, power, and muscle mass for the players that need to put on size.
The late off-season phase, which is the one our players are currently doing, focuses on speed, power, and essentially maximizing the transfer from the weight room on to the field. The max strength volume comes down quite a bit during that phase to make sure the players don’t end up overtrained. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, lots of speed and power training puts a lot of stress on the CNS.
One thing that I focus on during that late off-season phase is to maximize the amount of training in both the frontal and transverse plane. If you think about most classic lifting exercises they all develop strength in the sagittal plane (squats, deadlifts, lunges, presses, rows, etc). The reality is that on the field athletes almost never need to develop force exclusively in the sagittal plane, whether it’s when they throw, when they chase a ball, or when they hit.
There is an increased need for baseball players, just like athletes in most other sports, to develop force in the frontal and transverse planes. This is something you might not have noticed if you don’t really include multi-planar exercises in your programs, but most athlete have a really hard time developing force in the frontal plane. It is not very natural for them, yet, it can boost their performance on the field like crazy!
So let’s drop the theoretical concepts of frontal plane and transverse plane. What does that mean concretely in a training program?
There are different ways to help develop force and explosive power in the frontal plane. My 2 favorite exercises for that purpose are probably the lateral sled drag and the lateral bound (with or with resistance).
As for the transverse plane, you can get pretty creative with all the med ball throw variations and speed drills with changes of direction.
These are just some examples, but there are plenty of other ways you can include exercises and drills to optimize force production and explosive power for your athletes in the frontal and transverse plane in order to have maximize transferability of your gains made in training out on the field.
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We’re engaging in the home stretch of the youth hockey seasons for most kids in the country. All my athletes within Team Comcast have worked extremely hard all year, and most of them have made very good gains even though it’s in-season lifting, where our main goal is to make sure we don’t lose strength.
At this time of year though their schedule is getting a little crazy. Club team practices, club team games, high school team practices, high school team games, and school on top of their own family and personal lives. Not sure many of us would last long with that type of schedule!
Crazy schedule…just like what CM Punk’s new t-shirt says.
That being said, because of all that craziness going on this time of year, we often opt out of the scheduled lifting session and switch that to a recovery workout. This doesn’t need to be fancy, but most importantly it needs to stay short. My goals with these workouts are:
Get the blood flowing while keeping the intensity pretty low
Work on range of motion, which seems to be lost for a lot of players as the season goes
Include some soft-tissue work
Include injury prevention strategies
Keep it short
Keeping these goals in mind, here is what a sample recovery session might look like with one of my youth hockey teams:
– Foam roll
– Dynamic warm up
– Short circuit;
A1- Lacrosse ball on posterior hip 3 x 30sec/side
A2- Glute bridge squeezing foam roller 3 x (6 x 5sec)
A3- Seated psoas lift 3 x (4 x 5sec)/side
A4- Lateral miniband walk 3 x 10/side
– Static stretching
This seems pretty short, and quite frankly it is! The whole workout may take about 25 minutes including warm up and everything, and that’s exactly what they need sometimes. It will help recharge their battery, while still gaining some mobility and preventing injuries.
Give this type of circuit a try in-season with the teams you work with; you’ll see that it’s very beneficial, and the kids appreciate it a whole lot when they feel beat up.
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I watched the documentary Food Inc earlier this week. The film takes an in depth look at how food (meat in particular) is produced in the United States. Although I was well aware of some the facts they mention, the images are sometimes borderline troubling.
I have blogged about the problems of conventional food production on a number of different occasions, and as I discover more and more new evidence of how food really is produced nowadays, it really just solidify my opinion that the quality of organic food is far superior in every way.
One could argue that there isn’t much scientific evidence to support the fact that organic is indeed superior, but the reality is that this is a problem that we are just starting to be aware of. The food industry is making big efforts to keep customers in the dark about where their food comes from. It’s easy to be fooled by claims like “farm fresh” and “grade A” on food products we see in the grocery store, but understand that those are purely marketing claims and are not supported by any facts.
The documentary highlights some facts about the way animals are fed and raised in questionable conditions, the highly unsanitary conditions that meat is processed in within the factories, and the power the major food companies have over the organizations that are supposed to control the quality of the food and protect the customers.
What was a big eye opener to me is that the food industry, more than anything else, is a BUSINESS. Making money is clearly more important than delivering a quality product. If it was electronics or clothes industries it wouldn’t be such a big deal to cut the cost and make a product that may be a little cheaper, but we’re talking about companies who have the health of millions of people in their hands. Yet decisions are made on a daily basis to cut the costs and make more money.
It makes more and more sense to me to spend the couple extra bucks on organic products as I learn more about how conventional food is actually produced…
I highly recommend you watch Food Inc…but as a fair warning, some of the footage is pretty troubling as you see animals getting butchered, so beware.
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The squat is the king of all exercises….or is it the deadlift? Anyways, for a lot of of strength coaches and trainees out there the squat is the be all, end all of all exercises. And I used to think that, too. I used to back squat. A LOT. Just a couple years ago I was training like a powerlifter, squatting twice a week, week in and week out. Then I started having lower back issues, and I backed away from the squat.
Do I think the squat caused my back problem? Absolutely not. Did it make the problem worse because I was loading it on top of dysfunction. Most likely.
I’m not bashing the squat in any ways, and I can still appreciate it as an exercise and I totally recognize its value. But in a lot of circumstances, for a lot of people it’s not the best option. And THAT is what I learned with experience.
Although I would never consider the squat a “bad” exercise, here are some things to consider:
By putting a heavy bar on your back week after week, after week for years, there will be some cumulative damage on the intervertebral discs even though you have the most perfect squat form ever seen. That’s just a fact. I’m not talking about a serious acute injury, but you have to consider the degenerative stress over time when choosing to squat or not.
Some people (athletes and non-athletes) are simply not made to squat. We all have structural variations (length of torso, length of femurs, etc) that might make a squat look pretty awkward. For example someone with really long femurs might have to lean forward more while squatting. This is something you might be tempted to try and correct, but when the problem is structural, good luck fixing that.
Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), which is very common in athletic populations, can seriously restrict your range of motion during the squat. And if this is a problem you’re unaware of, you will definitely be making the problem worse and get your client closer to the surgery table. FAI is also a structural problem, so there is no “fixing it” unless you get your hip bone shaved off.
There are safer options that can develop lower body strength just as well and might require less external loading. All single leg variations like reverse lunges, RFE split squats, 1-leg squats and the like are good alternatives that will also strengthen the lower body the way sports are played: on one leg.
That being said, the squat is an essential movement pattern that we acquire when we’re babies, but we lose over the years, thanks in part to our sedentary lifestyle.
So the question is: if it is such an important movement pattern, how do we train it so it is beneficial?
Enter the goblet squat.
The goblet squat is an exercise that we use a lot at Endeavor Sports Performance to teach our young athletes the squatting movement. But anyone can use the goblet squat, whether you’re a beginner or even an advanced lifter.
It can be done by holding a dumbbell (held vertically), one kettlebell, or 2 kettlebells against your chest. By loading the body in the front you unload the spine a lot compared to a regular back squat. It also fires the core like nothing else.
Dan John himself mentions in his book Intervention that the goblet squat is usually all the squatting most people will ever need. It can be very pretty tough too; try a double kettlebell goblet squat with 24kg KBs and up, and let me know how it feels.
It patterns the squat without excessive load, since the load is “light” you avoid compensations, it fires the core, and protects the spine. In my book that’s pretty darn good!
Sometimes it’s hard to get out of the mindset of always loading, and loading and training to failure. The thing is that you can get a lot of benefits from training the squat without using crazy heavy loads and maximal effort.
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For those of you who have been following my work for a while you know that I like to blog and write articles to share my knowledge, but I am first and foremost a strength and conditioning coach who walks the walk. I coach athletes on a daily basis and as much as possible, what I write about is based on my experience. I’ve been a coach at Endeavor Sports Performance in South Jersey for the last couple of years. But there is a wind of change blowing on my career right now. (Cues Scorpion’s famous song)
In all seriousness, I am proud to announce that I just got a new job as a strength and conditioning coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization! I am starting in mid-February where I will heading down to spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona! I will be assigned to minor league strength and conditioning for the spring training and extended spring training until June, before I head to Oregon to work with the minor league team I am following.
I am extremely excited and looking forward to this new challenge. The Diamondbacks have the reputations of having one of the best medical staff of all professional sports. Just that in itself is a HUGE reason to excited for. Not many pro sports organizations implement PRI and DNS, which shows that the staff is ahead of the curve and very proactive about continuing education.
On top of that, I’ll be working with professional athletes, which as been my goal since day one when I started to work in the fitness/strength and conditioning field. Coming from a private setting, I’m sure it’ll be a huge change, but I am really looking forward to discovering what the pro sports setting has to offer.
Not knowing what the future holds for me in terms of schedule and free time, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to invest as much time as I currently do on blogging, writing articles and newsletter and all that good stuff. I might be toning down the writing frequency a little bit, especially for the first month during spring training, as I heard that it is the busiest time of year for the medical staff. Hopefully you’ll bear with me as I take the time to adapt to the new schedule and find a way to post consistently on my blog.
The other thing is that there might be an increase of baseball specific content in the future! Although I always made a conscious effort to keep it more general and talk about all the major sports as it pertain to strength and conditioning, it might change a little bit. I’ll make sure I don’t turn into 100% baseball specific content, as I realize most of you reading my website aren’t looking for baseball-only information.
That being said I am pumped about this new challenge and will make the most out of this opportunity. My blog might suffer the consequences in the short term, but I’ll definitely keep it running because sharing my passion is important to me.
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I am in the middle of Dan John’s Intervention right now. I enjoy reading Dan A LOT! He is very entertaining, but there are always very important lessons to learn from his books and articles as well. The guy has so much experience and did everything possible in the strength and conditioning field.
Yet, his advice is always about simplicity.
He is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever read. Yet, when you read what he has to say it is always ridiculously simple.
Just like he would tell you himself: Simple. Not Easy, though.
To me that’s what being extremely knowledgeable is about: putting good information in a format that is not only simple, but easy to understand, and most importantly APPLICABLE! I never finish a Dan John book or article thinking “WOW, my brain is spinning a 100 miles an hour, and I have no idea how to apply anything he’s talking about”.
Instead, I know exactly what I took away from the book– and more often than not, on top of the strength and conditioning material, I always take away important life lessons.
Intervention is about teaching, it’s about learning, it’s about simplicity. Definitely a must read for any strength coach and personal trainers. Make sure you check it out HERE.
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