Do what’s necessary to get you in the right positions, and then go lift heavy – that’s definitely not what I was expecting to hear someone from Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) say. Based on the information that they put up on the internet in the form of blog posts and YouTube videos, which Sandeep and I have used (both personally and with some of the folks we’ve worked with) and learnt a lot from, we weren’t really expecting to see athletes at CSP to be doing much heavy lifting. Even though we knew that the coaches there lifted heavy, since most of the information that they put up can be classified into the ‘corrective exercise’ or ‘rehab’ categories, we assumed that’s what their trainees were mostly doing.
Clearly, we couldn’t have been more wrong. One of the first things that welcomed us as we entered the gym was the fervid noise of barbells being dropped on the floor set to the background of a playlist that everybody there seemed to know the words to. The trainees were squatting and deadlifting some heavy ass weights and doing all sorts of push ups, pull ups and other difficult-looking movements. (Ever tried an oblique hold with pallof press?)
It smacks us real hard – there is a lot more to it than what coaches put out there in the form of articles and videos. While the internet is an awesome platform for sharing information, a lot can be lost while trying to interpret what’s put up. We realised that the information that coaches share is usually what they feel might not be easily accessible to others or are things they’ve gained through their own expertise and personal experiences. Something as straightforward, but important, as strength training is not something they need to constantly harp about.
Every move that they were doing at CSP seemed to have purpose. A squat was a squat, sure. But nobody was made to build strength and load up just for the sake of getting stronger. They were using strength training to teach their bodies to get into good positions, and produce force from there. For example, just like how the trainees understood why they were foam rolling or spending time stretching or activating a particular muscle, they also knew that they had to be able to push off the floor and pull a heavy load in order to learn to produce force and transfer it to something like a jump.
Another thing that struck us was how everyone at CSP was crystal clear about the role they play – they are the ‘strength and conditioning guys’. While their average trainee is a specialised athlete, they realise that they aren’t <insert sport> coaches. On the other hand, they are also aware of the fact that they aren’t physical therapists. They are constantly trying to help their trainees move better, but aren’t ‘fixing’ anyone.
Bottom line – making sure that we put our bodies in the right positions is critical for safety and optimal force production, and strength should never be built over dysfunction, as the popular saying goes. But there is no purpose to constantly working toward getting into better positions and moving better without really getting anywhere on the strength curve. Strength training reinforces good movement patterns and can be ‘corrective’ by itself, if done right.
We understood the massive difference between ‘corrective work’ and good old ‘coach’s eye’.
And since we’re on the topic of folks lifting heavy stuff at CSP, here’s Sandeep hitting a PR of 355 pounds on the deadlift on our first day there! Maybe it had a little something to do with the fact that Tony G was training in the same room as we were!