32 Random Thoughts On Training

This week is a guest post from Tony Gentilcore of Cressey Sports Performance in Massachusetts.  He’s both a hell of a coach and writer.  I read his blog regularly but I thought that this post in particular was great because it covered so many points that we often try to hammer home with our members at Ambition Athletics.  Tony was kind enough to let me share it with you, so, enjoy.  

A few days ago my good buddy, Mike Robertson, posted an article up on his blog titled 31 Random Training Thoughts. It was fantastic and you should take the time to read it. I liked the idea so figured I’d take some time today to toss my hat into the ring and showcase some of my own random thoughts as well.  32 of them. Because, you know bacon.

Starting with this amazing picture…

Tony G #1

1. Agility ladders and foot speed drills work wonders on making people better at doing agility ladders and foot speed drills. They DO NOT (at least rarely) translate to better performance on the court/field/diamond/pitch. It’s crucial to actually coach athletes (young and old) to learn to develop force. These drills, along with anything involving cones (the more elaborate the geometric shape the better), which make parents oooh and ahhh, should not be prioritized. Especially for younger athletes.

2. And since we’re on the topic of developing force…it’s just as crucial to coach our athletes how to ABSORB force or decelerate their bodyweight. What good does it do anyone to have all this horsepower and not have the ability to put on the brakes?

3. Also, force development is vector specific. This is why we utilize ‘Heidens’ in many of our programs for baseball players, particularly pitchers:


4. The whole notion of “muscle confusion” is lame. Most people don’t need as much variety as they think. If you’re not squatting or deadlifting 2x your bodyweight (for reps) I doubt the limiting factor is your lack of use of chains or bands.

5. More than ever I am convinced that the reason many people miss a lift is due to a poor initial set-up.

6. To that point, the lats play a HUGE role in stability and upper back stiffness (which in turn equates to less energy leaks during a set). It’s difficult to be efficient at any of the “Big 3″ without:

– Big lats.

– Learning how to better engage them.

7. Still having a hard time getting a “feel” for what it’s like to fire the lats during a deadlift? This drill may help:

8. One-arm dumbbell rows aren’t a great exercise to strengthen your scapular retractors. They are, however, the bomb when it comes to developing the lats. Just sayin….

9. Cuing someone to arch hard on a squat and to sit back is inefficient, especially for natural/un-geared lifters. Think: “belt buckle to chin” (posteriorly tilt pelvis), pull elbows together and forward (pull down on bar), push knees out, sit down (not back).

10. For the record: the above cue to posteriorly tilt the pelvis brings people from a state of excessive extension TO neutral. That’s a major difference compared to taking someone from neutral to more flexion.

11. Warm-ups should start ground based to standing to adding movement (linear or lateral).

12. By that same token they should start proximally (positional breathing, diaphragm) to distally.

13. Is this not the most baller groomsmen photograph ever taken?

Tony G #2

14. People hate doing pause squats, but dammit if they don’t make everyone’s squat numbers go up.

15. A common mistake that people make when bench pressing: not letting the bar settle. Meaning, after receiving a handoff don’t immediately descend the bar towards the chest. Rather, let the bar settle by placing your shoulder blades in your back pocket (posteriorly tilt, lats engage) and gather your bearings before you lower.

16. I’ve repeated this quote several times but I love it so much I’m going to repeat it again.

“When you start throwing a baseball with only your arm, then we’ll worry about doing only arm care exercises.”

Eric Schoenberg, PT, owner of Momentum Physical Therapy in Milford, MA

17. Despite popular belief, you can perform a Turkish get-up with a dumbbell.

18. Speaking of get-ups I like to include them as an extended warm-up. Do this:

– 10 KB Goblet Squats

– 10 KB Swings

– 1-2 KB Get-ups/side

Three rounds. Now go em Tiger!

19. Also, if I were you I’d err on the side of QUALITY for your get-ups rather than how hard you can make them. Progression on these isn’t necessarily about how heavy you can go, but how “effortlessly” you can perform them. Dr. Mark Cheng can perform 48 kg Get-ups; he chooses to stick with 24 kg for the bulk of his training.

Tony G #3

20. When assessing shoulders don’t only look at anterior/posterior imbalances (traditional upper cross syndrome), it’s equally as important to look at superior/inferior imbalances (scapular upward/downward rotation).

21. Scapular stability is more or less a misnomer. There aren’t any significant bony structures to warrant a ton of stability. Instead, as Sue Falsone notes, a more appropriate term would becontrolled scapular mobility.

Here’s a good drill for that: Band Wall Walks

22. Alignment matters. Always.

23. If you stretch in mis-alignment (think: hip flexor stretch when someone stays in excessive APT) you create more instability. If you strengthen in mis-alignment you create more muscular imbalances.

24. Women: if you want to get better at chin-ups/pull-ups you need to train them more than once per week. Follow the lead of Artemis Scantalides of IronBody Studios: train them 4-6x per week.

Monday: Flexed Arm Hangs/Hanging Leg Raises
Tuesday: Chin-ups or Eccentric Chin-Ups (Rule of 10): 3×3, 5×2, 2×5, etc
Wednesday: Band Assisted Chin-Ups
Thursday: Flexed Arm Hangs/Hanging Leg Raises
Friday: Chin-ups or Eccentric Chin-Ups (Rule of 10): 3×3, 5×2, 2×5, etc
Saturday: Band Assisted Chin-Ups

25. Guys, you suck at chin-ups too. I’d listen to Artemis as well if I were you.

Tony G #4

26. Don’t be afraid to include some more athletic movements into your training. Jumping, skipping, sprinting will improve your general day-to-day activities. Even if the most athletic thing you do is gardening….;o)

27. To that end, you don’t need to go 100% with your sprints. I like 60-70% effort “tempo repeats” (40-60 yds) for most general fitness clients. Also, if you cranky knees, sprint uphill. You’ll thank me.

28. Instead of embarking on a “fat loss” plan, focus your efforts towards a performance based goal. I find diverting efforts towards something more quantifiable leads to better long-term success. The amount of work and effort it takes to achieve said goal, assuming it’s realistic and attainable1, more often than not results in the aesthetic markers many people covet.

29. Push-ups are a very UNDERrated exercise. Some cues I always use:

– Squeeze glutes, brace abs (both help to posteriorly tilt pelvis which prevents excessive lower back arch).

– Spread fingers as wide apart as possible and think about “cork screwing” the floor apart. This will create more external rotation torque in the shoulders and provide more stability.

– Chest should hit floor first.

30. Not everyone is meant to squat ass-to-grass. We need to respect anatomy. Hip structure is different person to person, and you’re an a-hole if you hold everyone to the same standard. Some people are built to squat deep (and generally will have limited hip extension), while others are meant to deadlift a bulldozer (and might not be able to squat past 90 degrees). Some people can dominate both and we all hate them.

Tony G #5

31. Passive Tests = provides information on one’s available/total ROM. Active Tests = provides information on one’s ROM they can use. If someone tests great passively yet as limited active ROM it’s most likely a stability issue. Don’t always assume it’s lack of mobility.

32. Stop doing kipping pull-ups. Seriously, stop.

About the Author:

Tony G shot

Tony Gentilcore is one of the co-founders of Cressey Sports Performance, which really should have been called “Cressilcore Sports Performance” because that sounds like an awesome castle where a wizard lives (and plays sports).

When he’s not picking things up and putting them down, he trains top-level athletes, contributes to the top fitness magazines and websites around, and sets up a camera in his garage to record his lightsaber skills.

He lives in Boston. With Lisa.

Read and Learn more here @ TonyGentilcore.com