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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 31

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 31

Written on July 4, 2018 at 12:40 pm, by Eric Cressey

With summer training in full swing at both Cressey Sports Performance facilities, I’ve had all sorts of thoughts rattling around my head on a daily basis, so it set the stage for a new installment of this series on sports performance training.

1. Where an athlete feels an exercise is important, but not on all exercises.

I recently put up two Instagram posts that would appear to contradict one another, to the naked eye.

On one hand, you should always ask athletes where they feel an exercise. And, on the other hand, you sometimes don’t want to feel it in one specific place. The answer (as is almost always the case) is “it depends.”

When motion is actually taking place, muscles are working concentrically to create that motion. When a muscle shortens, you’ll usually develop that “feel” in a certain spot.

Conversely, on an isometric exercise like a carry, there isn’t a chance in tissue length, so you won’t usually get that same sensation.

Also, keep in mind that the position you’re in plays into this as well. If you’re squatting, don’t expect to “feel” your glutes, hamstrings, or quads specifically in the bottom position or mid-range – but you definitely could feel them a lot at the top as you approach the end of knee and hip extension, as the muscles shorten fully.

In short, “feel” matters – but not all the time.

2. Consider an athlete’s age when you’re trying to determine why they have a mobility restriction.

One-size-fits-all mobility approaches rarely work because of the way the body changes over the course of the lifespan.

Early on in life, kids are very hypermobile, so you don’t really see mobility restrictions. If something seems out of whack, it’s probably because they lack adequate motor control at an adjacent joint.

As they hit growth spurts, bones lengthen faster than muscles and tendons can keep up, so restrictions often become more musculotendinous in nature.

As the athletic lifespan continues, those muscular restrictions – in combination with the stress of sports participation or faulty postural habits – can lead to bony blocks and cemented joints. In the years that follow, capsular stiffness can emerge as a problem.

Over time, ligamentous laxity falls off and arthritis becomes more common, limiting range-of-motion even further.

Beyond a lifelong focus on preserving mobility, this knowledge of ROM “regressions” can remind to look to different places at different times. That 14-year-old athletic probably doesn’t have capsular stiffness, nor is arthritis a concern. And, that 64-year-old client with the cranky hip probably isn’t *only* dealing with muscular problems.

3. Strong guys need longer to train.

Imagine two lifters. Lifter A has one year of training experience and has a personal record deadlift of 315 pounds. Lifter B has 15 years of lifting under his belt and deadlifts 700 pounds. Let’s assume both lifters are working up to ~90% of their 1RM in a training session.

135×8
185×5
225×3
255×1
275×1
Work sets at 280-285

Lifter B Warm-up

135×8
225×5
315×3
405×3
455×1
495×1
545×1
585×1
605×1
Work sets at 630

Lifter A can get to his working weight in five warm-up sets while lifter B needs nine sets to do so. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lifter B will take more time to unload his plates after finishing his work sets – and he’ll probably need an additional warm-up set or two on subsequent assistance exercises. Additionally, chances are that given his time “under the bar” over the years, he’ll be a bit older and more banged up (especially at those strength levels), so he’ll need to devote more time to the general warm-up before he even gets to deadlifts. Lifter B will also be far more neurally efficient and therefore need more rest between heavy sets than Lifter A even if they’ve got similar aerobic capacity to facilitate recovery. You’re really comparing apples and oranges.

The list goes on and on, and we arrive at the realization that every lifter will have a different optimal training time. This is why I always disagree when I hear things like, “You’re working against yourself if you train for longer than 60 minutes.” Meanwhile, just about every accomplished strength sport athlete on the planet trains for longer than 60 minutes in just about every training session. And, many of them are extremely lean and muscular.

Don’t waste time in the gym, but don’t try to race the clock in every session, either. Do what you need to get to get your work in to deliver a quality training effect.

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