Archive for eric cressey

3 Things I Learned in 2012

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on February 15, 2013 by zenithstrength

2012 was a big year in terms of continuing my education and having an understanding of how the body works and how different segments of the body can affect each other. Below are 3 aha moments that I learned in 2012 and how they are related to each other.
1. Extension is the new flexion. Anterior tilt 2

I remember reading a post from Eric Cressey (although I can’t recall which one), and he talked about this training baseball athletes and how they were seeing more extension patterns vs flexion patterns. Although the light bulb didn’t fully go off until I attended the Postural restoration seminar, given that we work with a ton of athletes, I was noticing a similar pattern  and came to the conclusion that essentially, the majority of athletes are going to come in with some sort of extension type issue. It is important to address this especially if they are involved with overhead/ throwing movements, as the inability to control extension can also affect how the scapula is positioned on the ribcage which will affect shoulder stability.. If they are involved in jumping sports like basketball, this can lead to anterior knee pain and hip impingement, even groin/sports hernia issues.
The goal isn’t to make wholesale changes to athletes but moving them towards a more neutral hip position by strengthening weak links, which can help alleviate a ton of extension related symptoms.
So, with the increase in athletes who exhibit these features you start to appreciate how things are connected with regards to movement. You will find that an extension athlete will have rib flairs and extend in the T/L junction so it is important to cue them to keep the ribs down and engage their anterior abdominals and obliques. Inchworms are a great exercise to work on bringing the ribs down.
There is also a correlation between how someone breathes and their hip and scapula position which brings up point number two.

2. Breathing is really important.

Breathing has been talked about by quite a few coaches I highly respect. And it wasn’t until I spent more time with a PRI trained therapist that I fully understood the relationship between how you breathe and how it affects everything from core stability to shoulder stability and range of motion. The inner core has been discussed comprehensively, and breathing properly sets the diaphragm in position to stabilize the spine when lifting heavy stuff. How you breathe can also affect your state of mind and how you deal with stress. Here are a couple of great articles that talk about this. Mike talks about stress and breathing here and Sean talks about the importance of breathing.

A few things to assess are whether someone inhales mainly through chest, or do the lungs expand with the belly. Also, look to see if they can depress their ribs during the exhale and engage the diaphragm.

3. Upward rotation for shoulder health.

Again this is a topic that has been discussed extensively by Eric Cressey and a few other coaches. Most overhead athletes will have poor upward movement of their scapula and if they are stuck in the extension posture we talked about, they will probably have their scapula locked in depression and  downward rotation using the lats. To mimic this position, exaggerate sticking your chest out and feel what it does to your upper back, scapulae and lower back.

Adding Y’s can help to some degree but we prefer seated wall slide variations and the 135 wall slide.

These are great variations  but to make them even better I would add an exhale before going into shoulder flexion to keep the ribs down and prevent them from flaring up.

Here’s a video from Mike Robertson demoing the forearm wall slide 135

And Eric Cressey demonstrating the half kneeling landmine press.

We have also started integrating Landmine presses to allow the scapula to move freely into upward rotation.


The name of the game is to keep getting better and continuing to learn so we can help athletes achieve higher levels of performance while limiting injuries as much as we can.

Hopefully these tips will help with your training and coaching.


Wall Slide Variation with Bands

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on July 17, 2012 by zenithstrength

Wall slides are a great “bang for your buck” exercise to keep the shoulders healthy especially if you’re an athlete involved in overhead sports or are coming off a shoulder injury.

Here are a few reasons why I like using wall slides so much.

1. Improving shoulder external range of motion.

I remember first learning about the effectiveness of wallslides from the Optimal Shoulder Performance Dvd by Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold. Wallslides  gently  improve shoulder external range of motion without excessive stretching  for those who may have limitations  caused by sitting in a chair for hours on end.

2. Improving upward and downward rotation of the shoulder by strengthening the lower traps, serratus and activating the upper traps.

Eric Cressey has talked extensively about the importance of shoulder upward rotation in this post and mentions the research as to why upward rotation is important not only for baseball pitchers but for athletes involved with overhead sports.

3. Improving thoracic spine extension and shoulder flexion range of motion.

In addition to improving shoulder external rotation, wall slides also improve shoulder flexion and mid back extension which are two areas that we usually could use  more mobility with . Unfortunately, these two motions have a synergistic relationship in that a limitation in upper back extension mobility will generally affect your ability to reach your arms overhead.  Furthermore, soft tissue restrictions in the lats and pecs can also limit shoulder flexion.

While you can perform wall slides seated or standing, I prefer to do them seated with the head, shoulder blades, and low back touching the wall. This will ensure that the athlete does not substitute shoulder flexion,(raising the arms overhead), for lumbar extension(excessively arching the low back). Make sure to keep the ribs down so they don’t flair out while raising the arms overhead.

I like to cue our athletes to take a nice deep breath in, expand the rib cage and  then exhale performing a rep while the ribcage is depressed. You don’t have to perform them like this but integrating breathing will help teach what it feels like to keep the rib cage down.

Once you get really comfortable with these you can progress and add some band resistance which really lights up your lower traps and also challenges T spine extension since the bands are pulling you forward.

For more goodies on the T-spine check out Dean Somerset’s fantastic write-up on that subject here.

Give these a try at the end of your upper body workouts and let me know how you like them.


Core Stability in your Training Program

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2011 by zenithstrength

Assessing and addressing core stability is an important part of a solid strength and conditioning program . The reason for that is the better you can control/stabilize your pelvis the better you can demonstrate force through movement. This applies to whether your goal is getting stronger and lifting heavier weights, or getting faster on the field. I have never seen an athlete who was fast and explosive who didn’t also have good core stability. Now this doesn’t mean that only thing one has to train is the core. I get asked that question a lot, and  the bottom line is that force production is the name of the game if you are an athlete. In order to get stronger, you must have stability in the right places to demonstrate force.

Here are some basic guidelines and exercises regarding programming some core stability exercises into your program.

1. Anti extension which is preventing and controlling back extension/hyperextension. This is especially important with clients who have an excessive anterior tilt and have back pain.

Some examples include front planks, ab roll out variations, body saws and loaded zercher sandbag carries

2.Anti Flexion which is preventing your low back from flexing. Consistent and repetitive flexion of the spine may potentially cause issues with disc herniations down the road.

Examples of anti flexion exercises include  hip hinging, dead lift variations and squat variations. In addition  the prone knee to chest mountain climber using sliders or the TRX is another great exercise that we use with clients who have a posterior tilt/flat back to teach them the difference between hip flexion and lumbar flexion.

3.Anti lateral flexion,which  is preventing the low back from flexing to the side.

Some examples of exercises include side plank variations, pallof presses, landmines, suite case carries using farmers walk handles.

4. Anti rotation, which is preventing rotation in the pelvis and low back.

Some great anti rotation exercises include bird dogs, renegade rows, single leg RDL’s and hip thrusts.


Both anti rotation and anti lateral flexion stability are important especially in rotational sport athletes like golfers baseball pitchers and tennis players. Since these athletes spend most of their time rotating its a good idea to throw in these exercises to keep the low back healthy.

You should have some combination of the core stability exercises listed. Depending on how many weight training session per week you lift,  the combinations are endless and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Eric Cressey has a great article on programming core exercises into your program.

Below, is an example of working anti extension and anti lateral flexion with the plank using a band.

You can make this more dynamic by adding two bands and pulling the athlete into lateral flexion. I originally got that idea from Jim Smith and Joe Defranco. They have a dvd coming out soon called Extreme, detailing creative ways to get stronger and faster.

Try some of these exercises out and let me know how they feel.

Train Hard!


Overhead drill with a Twist.

Posted in Z.S. Tennis with tags , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2011 by zenithstrength

At Zenith Strength we are constantly thinking about ways to get more creative to help our athletes improve.

My brother who is a tennis coach mentioned that most players have issues with the proper footwork for the overhead.

After watching some of Eric Cressey’s med ball drills that he does with his pitchers, I came up with a variation for our tennis players.


In the video below, David Hsu is working on his cross over step as it relates to the overhead, drops back and throws a weighted 12oz med ball to work strengthening and  his motion and developing more force. The ball weighs slightly more than the average tennis racket is about the size of a baseball. You can get these at power-systems

We generally do this after some band resisted cross over steps to take advantage of the neuro muscular stimulus the band tension provides.

Train Hard!



Assessing the Basketball Player

Posted in Uncategorized, Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by zenithstrength

Assessments and corrective exercise are extremely important factor in designing a strength and conditioning program. It doesn’t matter the sport you play or the goals you have. The coach needs to have an idea on how you well you move and the easiest way to do that is with a few exercises. Before we get started, I highly recommend Assess and Correct from Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Bill Hartman. A&C is great as it will improve your ability to assess clients and athletes. There are also corrective exercises with progressions to improve movement issues and you can add them into your dynamic warmup.

Regarding basketball athletes there are a few things we look at that  basketball players usually have some restrictions with

1.Ankle Mobility

2.Hip Mobility and stability

3.Previous injury history

Keep in mind that I am generalizing and that not everyone who plays basketball will have  these issues which is why it is preferable to thoroughly assess the athlete prior to training them.

Ankle restrictions and lack of dorsiflexion is very common amongst basketball players and this can occur for many reasons such as type of footwear  worn, using ankle braces while practicing, and/or  due to sprained ankles.

Eric Cressey also has a great article on the importance of ankle mobility you should also check out.

We also take a look to see if there are soft tissue restrictions in the calf and soleus that may be inhibiting ankle movement and if there are we address that by using some SMR techniques with a lacrosse ball or stick. If that doesn’t work we will refer out for soft tissue work.

Here are a couple of ankle mobility drills we use for the ankle. Keep in mind that there are endless variations of mobility drills out there.

I learned this from KStarr  and have been using this for a while now and have been seeing a lot improvement with our athletes. Check out Mobility wod for some innovative mobility drills.

I like this set up with the band just above the malleolus as it allows the ankle to glide from the band distraction.

Calf stretch using the pro stretch.

I highly recommend this if you don’t have one as it the best way to stretch out your gastroc. The prostretch also works well for plantar fascitis and other foot issues too.  

Hip Mobility can be an issue for basketball players. Generally speaking from the players we have assessed hip flexors both the Psoas and Rectus Femoris will be short and stiff. The Thomas test is a good way to test hip flexor shortness.

Below is a detailed explanation of the Thomas test and what to  look for.

We also check hip strength/stability using the overhead squat and single leg squat test.

You can also use the step down test to see if the knee caves in. Hip stability is extremely important regarding knee health and is a key component in our program design to prevent ACL injuries.

And lastly we take down the athletes injury history because the strongest indicator of an injury is a previous injury to the same spot. By assessing the athlete and addressing the needs of the athlete and improving movement patterns our goal is to reduce the likelihood of a serious injury so the athlete can reach their performance goals on the court.

Tran Hard.


Top 3 Shoulder Exercises to improve External Range of Motion

Posted in Uncategorized, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2010 by zenithstrength

Working with a lot tennis players and overhead throwing athletes  means that we are usually dealing with shoulder issues and reducing the risk of rotator cuff injuries.

There is a lot of  “stuff” to look for when dealing with overhead athletes and shoulder issues. Generally, you want to take a look at T spine rotation range of movement, internal and external rom and scapula stability issues like winging.

For more information on  training athletes and clients with shoulder issues check out Optimal Shoulder Performance, by Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold. There is  a ton of info regarding training the injured shoulder and specific shoulder pathologies such as internal vs external impingement and manual techniques to improve dynamic stability of the  rotator cuff.

Alright now to get into the importance of  external range of motion.  Basically the service motion, specifically the cocking phase requires the athlete to externally rotate the shoulder through an extreme range of motion. This is also similar to throwing a baseball.

Take a look at the images  of the service and throwing motion.

Without the flexibility to externally rotate the shoulder the athlete is predisposed to myriad of potential injuries.

Below is a list of our 3 favorite exercises to improve external range of motion.

1. Wall Slides. These are great for lower trap activation and since you are improving external range of motion you will also lengthen the pecs if they are tight.

2. Side Lying extension with rotation

This exercises helps to stretch out the pec minor while also improving thoracic extension with rotation.

The pec minor internally rotates the shoulder so stretching it out helps improve your external range of motion.

Check out the video on how to perform the exercise.

3. No Money Drill with bands.

In addition to performing these drills, make sure to stretch out your pecs and lats as they work to internally rotate the shoulder. When these muscles are tight they reduce the external range of motion of the shoulder and also affect the ability of rotator cuff to stabilize the humerus. When you stretch out the internal rotators you end up gaining motion into external rotation and this works similarly with  the hips and  how tight hip flexors limit hip extension from the glutes. By strengthening the hip extensors you end up improving flexibility in the hip flexors.

Here’s a great lat stretch that we use with a jump stretch band.

Stay healthy and train hard.


Speed Training for Young Athletes

Posted in Guest posts, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by zenithstrength

Today’s post is a guest post from Eric Cressey of Cressey performance located in Boston. His take on speed and quickness training for young athletes was dead on and I had to share it.

Check it out here.

Cressey brings up some great points in his post about preparing athletes i.e. improving mobility, stability and strength before performing tons of agility and deceleration drills. Due to the high amount of forces on the joints during sprinting which can be up to 4 -6 times body weight, the body must have adequate strength to be able to decelerate and absorb the forces without injury to the knee-joint.

Check out his video as he discusses the absolute speed to absolute strength continuum and explains that you must build a solid strength foundation and build upon that to create a faster/quicker athlete.

Building stronger, faster, quicker athletes takes time and involves a progression of building stability and strength. Some kids may be more ready than others to begin different movement drills, but adding these drills to a young athlete who isn’t prepared for it is an injury waiting to happen.

In Strength,