What I Learned In 2007 – Eric Cressey vs. Patrick McKinney

Inspired by T-nation author Eric Cressey’s What I Learned In 2007, I decided to put together my own list of things that I learned in 2007 (note – Eric’s 2006 article was my first ever post so be sure to read this years version).

1) Gifted athletes do not necessarily look remarkable but there is something weird about the way they look when they train. A few weeks ago we did the athlete testing for SST’s 12 week football academy. There were a variety of assessment tests but the one that stood out to me was the penta jump. This is basically a standing long jump with 5 jumps instead of just one, all linked together in a fluid unstopping order. It is a skill, but talent does impact ones performance.

Many of the athletes performed unremarkable, which is what we expect to see at the start of the camp because many of them are untrained and are coming off of a month or two layoff from exercising. But one of the athletes, a 14 year old, look weird doing it. He seemed to float away from me when he jumped – each jump took him so much further down the turf than any of the other athletes. His distance way 6-8 feet longer than any one else in his age group. I wasn’t very surprised to see his sub 5 second result in the 40. He’s 14 years old and pretty small. I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll continue to improve as he grows pounds of muscle and gains more complete neural control over his muscle firing patterns.

2) Fish oil supplements eliminate most of the shoulder pain I experience when I’m lifting heavy. I’m both shocked and happy to have found this to be the case. There is practically no fire in my shoulders in the days following my chest / back workouts. There used to be pain that prevented me from sleeping and stopped me from training heavy in the summer. This is all but gone now, thanks to 6-10 grams of fish oil per day.

3) Great athletes embrace coaching, lifters tend to ignore it. How someone responds to feedback plays the biggest role in the quality of feedback that they get. The gifted 14 year old listens to all the advice and coaching that he is given and he continues to improve, and people continue to coach him. This isn’t surprising because people do not like to waste their time. IF someone isn’t going to follow the advice that is given to them, people learn very quickly to stop giving it to them. Personally I begin to disengage from a person after the first time they role their eyes and DON’T change their movement pattern – they can role their eyes, call me a prick but so long as they change their movement pattern I’ll keep coaching them.

When it comes to lifters most of them do not want to lift correctly. They lift the weight and not the movement. I look away a lot when I’m at the commercial gym because I don’t want to see someone hurt themselves and feel responsible from helping them. I’ll offer advice to a young lifter on the off-hand chance that they want to become better, but more often than not they don’t want to hear it. This is too bad for them and good news for Rachel because she’s going to be an athletic therapist and will have a lot of people to work on.

4) Energetic coaching is more important than knowledgeable coaching when it comes to working with young or inexperienced athletes. Young people don’t not have the movement inventory or body awareness that older people have because they have spend less time in their bodies interacting with the earth. Most athletic movements are going to be new to them and they are not likely to have the motor control to move their bodies in the way that is required in order to be performed the movement correctly. For this reason, advanced coaches are not going to be able to use their knowledge to facilitate improvements within this population. More importantly, given that it is frustrating to be bad at something, particularly when a coach or another athlete does it with ease, inexperienced athletes may find quitting an easier choice if they do not find any enjoyment in an activity. An energetic coach can help bridge the gap between a lack of experience and learning a new skill and will often help the young person find joy in an otherwise unrewarding experience.

5) Rotator cuff muscles are primarily fast twitch fibers and should be trained in the 7-10 rep range with fast effort and slower negative tempos. This one could have read – people should train their rotator cuff muscles. I started doing internal and external rotation exercises just after I started working at SST after the cause of my horrific posture was pointed out. While I am still imbalanced in this area, I’m catching up and standing taller than I ever have.

6) Steady state cardio promotes fat storage while high intensity interval training creates more EPOC that will result in greater fat loss over the long haul. I credit RPM with starting my brain thinking about this one. The choreography is interval based with exertion levels growing from comfortable to breathless. One of the things I found once I stopped trying to keep my heart rate at 150 was that I was more tired at the end of the workouts and couldn’t do so much riding. I also noticed that there is only have a finite length of time that I can get my heart rate above 160 and once this time is up I get too fatigued trying to bring it up there again.

As this relates to fat loss: you need to workout very intensely to promote fat loss, but you need to workout at various levels of intensity to get the most fat loss because it requires the most amount of energy to adapt to many different level of effort. Also, if you workout at just one intensity, your body will quickly adapt to make it more and more efficient to work at that level the next time. This means if you are working out at a level that requires fat as fuel, the body will adapt to store more fat to fuel the effort next time. If you keep it at a steady state, your body will become so efficient at working at this level that it will stop losing fat. Given that your activity level will not change, it is unlikely that you will alter your diet to account for this improved efficiency and will begin to eat a calorie surplus thus promoting fat storage.

7) Spell check and proof read your resume a number of times before you submit it. We initially passed on a trainer candidate because of the typos on his resume. I looked over his resume a week later and thought that maybe there was a good reason why the mistakes were there. When we chatted it was obvious that there wasn’t a good reason but that he was a good candidate. He did fantastic in his interviews and we hired him. He is a gifted trainer with a wonderful demeanor that allows him to connect with almost everyone he engages. I’m glad I called him because he is a real asset to the team and a good human being. But I almost didn’t take the chance because of something that is very easy to avoid.