This article provides a comprehensive overview of off-season training for athletes, specifically golf and baseball players. It provides a refresher course on how to train for the off-season while still maintaining an athletic lifestyle. The program is designed to allow athletes to maintain healthy lifestyles while they are not competing. This is important since the off-season is an optimal time to gain strength and improve conditioning.
This off-season is a great time to get the majority of your training done. You will be training less and recovering more, so you should use this time to your advantage. Make sure to stay in touch with your coach and keep him up to date on what you are doing. If you are training in a group, communication is key. It is difficult to offer off-season training if you do not know what is happening with your trainer. This is why it is important to keep in touch with your coach.
When you’re a professional athlete, off-season training is a common place to start, but it’s not always easy to game plan. You’re often put in a different situation than what you’re used to, and that can often lead to confusion and less than optimal performance. That’s why it’s always beneficial to get advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Enter Eric Cressey – an American strength coach best known as the founder of Cressey Performance. He’s gained a strong reputation for his work with athletes of all sports, and is often seen as the go-to guy for athletes looking for a way to stay focused and get the most out of their workouts.
When the PN team got down to create this library of training programs to connect with the system a few months ago, we wanted to make sure we had something special for our athletes, many of whom compete at the highest levels of their sport.
So when it came time to put up a program for players’ off-season training, we went to the man who knows how to do it best: Cressey, Eric.
Eric’s a long-time friend of , and he’s one of the best in the business at prepping athletes for the rigors of elite sport. Recently he’s been spending his time working with athletes at Excel Sport & Fitness in Boston. He’s even written an entire manual on the topic, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, and so when he agreed to dig into his bag of tricks to come up with an off-season program for members, we knew it would be in good hands.
And, sure enough, he delivered one of the best and most comprehensive training programs we’ve seen in a long time.
Eric’s Off-Season Training for Athletes program is available to members here:
Eric Cressey’s Off-Season Training for Athletes
Last week, I was able to interrupt Eric’s busy day of training athletes and preparing for an upcoming powerlifting meet (he’s just a few pounds shy of Elite status in the 165-pound weight class, with competition bests of 540 squat, 402 bench, 628 deadlift, and 1532 total) to talk with him about his career, his obsession with biomechanics, and what it takes to become an elite-level athlete.
Q&A with Eric Cressey
: I recall you writing an article for johnberardi.com called Budgeting for Bodybuilders a few years ago. It post was fantastic since, a lot of the time, that is people’s primary reason for not doing these things: “I can’t afford it.” You always manage to come up with innovative solutions to issues, even when they occur outside of the gym. I don’t believe the term “strength coach” really describes what you do. What would you call yourself if you had to give yourself a new moniker?
Cressey, Eric: That’s a fair question; I also hear “Performance Enhancement Specialist” thrown about a lot these days. Even yet, I’m not convinced it adequately conveys the mood. [Laughs.] But these days, you end up doing more than strength and conditioning; you end up doing budgeting, because this stuff is expensive, or sports management, or sports psychology, because you’re working with athletic trainers, head coaches, and a slew of other specialists, and you have to be able to understand where they’re coming from. So the fitness business has to figure up a better method to categorize individuals, but I don’t think it’ll be simple. But it’s interesting, I wanted to be an accountant when I wrote that essay. [Laughs.] However, around two years into business school, I discovered that counting plates on the bar was more interesting to me than numbers and figures in an office all day. So everything worked out nicely, and I was able to pursue my passions for sports management and exercise science.
PN: What did your high school counselor predict you’d be?
EC: It’s funny because in my senior year of high school, I didn’t take any scientific courses. I was adamant about accounting. It might have been hereditary or something since I come from a family of accountants. I loved the black-and-white, numbers-based element of it, and I recall my counselor being on board with it. Counselors are comfortable suggesting and supporting accounting as a professional choice. I excelled in math and accounting courses, so becoming an accountant seemed like the next obvious step. But, towards the conclusion of high school and throughout my freshman year of college, I had some health issues, and as a consequence, I lost a lot of weight. It was one of those pivotal life moments, and I wanted to reclaim it in the best possible manner. And as a result, I began to understand how enthusiastic I was about not just the workout aspect of it, but also about nutrition. As a result, I began to figure out how to put everything together. And then I found t-nation.com, and I began chatting to John Berardi more and more, which led to that first piece. From then, everything just sort of snowballed. It’s been a fascinating couple of years, to say the least.
PN: Can you recall the first time you lifted a weight?
EC: Actually, I do. The irony of it all is this. My brother, who was a senior in high school at the time, was a fairly large man at the time, and I was in eighth grade. He was into everything, even lifting. One day after school, he took me to the high school weight room. And the irony is that today my brother works as an accountant and weighs somewhere between a buck thirty-five and a buck forty. [Laughs.] He doesn’t lift nearly as much as he should, yet here I am, pursuing it as a career and competing as a powerlifter. I suppose times change. But, yes, that first day was at one of those phases when you want to piss off your parents, whether it’s right or not. So I’d grown my hair out to a good length, and since I had very wiry, curly hair, it was pretty much an afro. I was also a chubby child at the time. Sure enough, I walk into the gym and go on the bench press, only to be trapped by a 45-pound bar. So here’s this big kid, big afro, beet red face, squirming under the bar like a fish out of water. [Laughing.] So I’m sure that gave them a nice chuckle. In hindsight, though, it was a pivotal event.
PN: Do you recall your most embarrassing gym mishap?
EC: Sure, go ahead. I’ve done some foolish things. However, in retrospect, it has always taught me something. I’d say the greatest low point was when I first pulled 400 pounds in 2002, and then a week later I was in the gym performing my warmup sets on a chilly November day, and I was eager to go home and watch football, so I didn’t warm up as much as I should have. And after a warm-up set of 185, I wound up herniating my L5-S1 disc. [Laughs.] To cut a long tale short, I learned a lot about lower back therapy, performed all of my own treatment, and eventually recovered. I’m now pulling about 650 pounds. In hindsight, it turned out to be a gift in disguise. You never expect things to turn out the way they do, but you never know. I learnt a lot about how to properly warm up, and it came out that I had certain imbalances that were causing the issue to begin with. However, hindsight is always 20/20. As I already said, the event taught me a great deal.
PN: Can you recall your greatest day, when you said to yourself, “Yep, this is what I want to do?”
EC: Oh, yes, I’m always having them. Many of them have been as a coach, not simply as a lifter, for me. I mean, I’ve competed in meetings when I went 8 for 9 and did very well. There were times when I felt completely at ease. But as a coach, I’ve seen that you get into a groove and don’t even realize you’re having so much fun because you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing. But, from the perspective of a lifter, my first meet sticks out; it had a significant effect on how my career progressed, and it pushed me to examine how I did things and make significant changes. Many seasoned lifters I’d never met before took me under their wing and taught me stuff I didn’t know. I heard about the fitness-fatigue concept, and you know, I’d built up a lot of tiredness over the years, and maybe all that bodybuilding had caught up with me. So just being out there and competing for the first time, and going through the whole process, was important.
PN: As a cross between a strength coach and a physical therapist, you work one-on-one with a lot of athletes. What part of the spectrum do you fall on?
EC: Well, I’m not a therapist, a physical therapist, or anything like that, but it’s a fair question because a lot of what I do is in the between. I believe I have a good eye for dysfunction and am capable of assisting with it. I mean, there’s not much I can do if someone rips their labrum, but I can look at someone and see if they have a scapular dysfunction that might lead to a tear, and I can certainly deal with that. At the other end of the scale, you know, you often have individuals receiving acute medical care, and you still need to know how to create a training impact in the interim. You still need to address the flaws and inadequacies that brought them there in the first place, and I believe that’s where I come in. Many individuals are unaware that 80 percent of Americans will have back discomfort at some time in their life. We can’t, however, send 80% of the population to physical therapy. There’s a lot we can do in the gym to address it, so I envision myself filling that need. At the same time, I work with a lot of healthy athletes who want to enhance their performance, so that’s still a major part of my job.
PN: With whom do you spend the most of your time these days?
EC: I’ve worked with NBA players, NFL combine participants, and D1 baseball players, as well as weekend warriors. Athletes of all ages, to be precise. I deal with a lot of bikers, runners, and triathletes since Boston has a large endurance training group. Working with my high school athletes is also a lot of fun for me. Actually, we’ll be working with the Blue Man group starting next week, so that will be fascinating. So it’s not only athletes that are affected. I’m fortunate in that my days are varied.
PN: As a kid, were you always muscular and athletic? EC: I wasn’t your average athletic child, to be sure. I didn’t eat too well that day. But I was always active, moving about and doing a variety of activities, so I was athletic, but I didn’t start lifting weights until after high school. As a result, I didn’t get off to the same start as some others. But I still believe I have many excellent years ahead of me, and I’m making fantastic progress. And I find it interesting since I’m constantly experimenting with new methods and such. I consider myself a powerlifter first and an athlete second. I’m not sure I want to be a powerlifter for the rest of my life; I may attempt strongman or vertical jump training soon; I just want to go out there and enjoy being athletic. It’s fun to exercise here since I can join in with the athletes and practice alongside them. All I want to do now is keep pushing myself, keep trying new things, and keep going for many more years.
PN: You’re still young, so what’s your secret to achieving national acclaim at such a young age?
EC: I’d say it’s probably at the expense of social life. [Laughs.] No, I’ve just been very fortunate, and I’m fortunate enough to have a profession that I like. I have the opportunity to work with athletes. There’s nothing better than that in my opinion. But, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I’m always striving to learn more. I’m not happy with what I know right now. One of the issues with teaching customers and charging an hourly rate is that you end up working so hard that you’re always educating clients, which is fine from a financial perspective, but you’re not really continuing to educate yourself. You teach them all day, go to bed, and get up the next day to do it all over again. And it isn’t going to help you. When will you get an opportunity to read? Where are you going to have the opportunity to contact other coaches, go to seminars, and do things like that? So, for me, the Internet has been beneficial in that it has provided me with more chances to improve as a coach. So I’ll try to set out a day each week to go, maybe to UConn or to visit Mike Boyle at BU, or simply to phone other coaches to discuss what they’re doing, what I’m doing, and what’s working and what isn’t working. So that’s beneficial. Many trainers get engrossed in their work and neglect to schedule time for ongoing education. But, apart from the time commitment, I believe I approach things with a writer’s mindset: I’m constantly searching for new ways to accomplish things, fresh insights, and fascinating ideas to share with the public, and I believe this keeps me on my toes. And the beauty of writing on the web is that you receive immediate feedback. I mean, I’m sure you guys have seen that when you post anything, you can receive immediate response from people all over the globe, and it forces you to react to them, answer their questions, and improve your ideas. There’s no way I could receive that sort of criticism in person, and there’s no way I could get it in such large numbers. There is no other method to test your programs or ideas on such a huge sample size. As a result, you have more chances to test your ideas on the Internet and discover whether they are viable. You can go back and forth, bringing things from the internet into the gym with your local athletes, and from the local athletes back to the internet and that enormous sample size, continuously testing and improving. You’ve undoubtedly had similar experiences with nutrition. So, without a doubt, the internet has helped me speed up the process.
PN: When it comes to nutrition, how important is it to you on a daily basis, both as an athlete and as a coach?
EC: It’s huge, in fact I don’t think people realize how important it is to their overall progress. The overwhelming majority of problems we see in our society are related to systemic inflammation to some degree. Just look at omega-3 to omega-6 ratios, I’ve seen people dramatically improve arthritis and a number of other conditions with just the addition of fish oil. And really it just comes down to this: if you put junk in your body, you’re going to get junk results. When I was writing this program for the members, one of the first things I say in there is that, you know, this is a good program, but it will be an incredible program if you dial in your nutrition. And that’s what is all about. We sit down and have conversations with all of our combine guys, and we say to them flat out, “For the next couple of months, you’re going to drop what you’re doing now cold turkey, and you’re going to eat the way we tell you to eat.” We have this one kid who just started up with us, and the first meeting, he walks in with Twizzlers in one hand and M&M’s in the other. [Laughs.] And the thing is sometimes they can get away with it for a short time, or while you’re young. This kid in particular is lean, he’s a monster in the gym. But so is everyone else at the highest level, and if you want to beat those guys, you can’t leave any stone unturned. You’ve got to provide your body with the raw materials it needs to push the outer limits of human performance. If your nutrition is poor, or mediocre, or just okay, and really for most athletes it is, then you have a lot of untapped potential in there. There’s a big difference between acceptable and optimal, and it’s those who realize that and take that step who really set themselves apart.
PN: Biomechanics is practically an obsession for you. Were you calculating joint forces on your GI Joes when you were six years old?
EC: No, I don’t think so. [Laughs.] Maybe I was doing it unconsciously. But it was when I moved out of business school to pursue my exercise science degree at the University of New England, which also happened to have one of the finest medical schools in the nation, that things really started to fall into place for me. As a result, I was able to take Gross Anatomy and deal with cadavers for six months. Physical therapists, athletic trainers, occupational therapists, and pre-med students encircled me. I was surrounded by people who valued anatomy above everything else. Then I began to study how the body moves, going beyond the basics of anatomy. Because structure determines function, and function, in turn, determines dysfunction, it’s critical to distinguish between functional anatomy and anatomy textbook material. The human body is more than a two-dimensional piece of paper. You also need to understand compensatory patterns and other such factors, and the only way to do so is to study a variety of athletes and experiment with what works and what doesn’t. And as a result of that, Mike [Robertson] and I have done a number of stuff, such as seminars and DVDs. It’s not only about the origin, insertion, innervation, and activity of muscle A; it’s also about what occurs when it doesn’t. What does Muscle B do to make up for it? Is it shutting down, balling up, or something else? What can you do about it, and most importantly, what can you do about it?
PN: Speaking of which, you’ve put out some fantastic work. All of our athletes should watch the Magnificent Mobility DVD and read the Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. What prompted you to create them, and what more can we look forward to from you in the future?
EC: I suppose the Mobility DVD was the initial step in all of this, and it was Mike and me’s first foray into information goods. We utilize a number of things with our customers and athletes, as well as things we’ve learned through our contacts with physical therapists, chiropractors, and other experts. As a result, this was an all-encompassing approach to bringing all of those concepts together. The cool thing about it was that when we first introduced it, it was intended to be a warm-up DVD, something to teach people how to get their bodies moving more efficiently, something to get people ready before they lift, but afterward, we got all this feedback and email from people saying things like, “Hey thanks guys, my hamstring problem is gone,” or, “Awesome, my back doesn’t hurt a bit,” and so on. It was never meant to be a rehabilitation program, either. We hoped for a modest effect, but we never marketed it as a treatment option for injuries. People were calling us, praising us for solving this or that issue, and so on. To be honest, it was a bit surprising, but really amazing. So far, it’s been a big hit. It’s interesting, however, because once it was published, I was dubbed “The Mobility Guy.” People want to put you in a box. So the Off-Season Manual is useful because it shows players’ total programming, and mobility work accounts for around 3-5 percent of it. The Off-Season Manual provides access to the remaining 95% of what I do with our players. Everything has its place, and it’s critical to gain a sense of perspective, to see what components are involved, and to understand where each component fits into the overall process of preparing an athlete for top sport. So that’s what the Off-Season Manual does: it takes a comprehensive look at the whole program, which has been a lot of fun for me.
PN: What are your long-term professional and athletic ambitions?
EC: I believe competing as a strongman would be a lot of fun from an athletic standpoint. I mean, I’d want to be able to claim I deadlifted 700 pounds, had a 40-inch vertical, and participated in strongman competitions. That would be perfect for me. The diversity is appealing to me. Also, I work with athletes that have a variety of objectives, and I want to have a frame of reference for whatever they face. As a result, I believe that having that experience and being competitive will benefit my players. Professionally, I never anticipated the Internet to take off as quickly as it has. I really have to hire someone to assist me with it since I’m not cut out to be an Internet-only person. I need to be in the gym or out on the field working with players. People must be trained by me. First and first, I’m a coach, followed by a writer or anything else. I’d like to spend my days working with athletes, and that’s pretty much where I’m headed. So I’d simply want to stay the course and see where it leads, continue to give all I have to any athlete who is willing to put in the effort, and let it grow from there. Hopefully, this will result in a massive empire. [Laughs.]
PN: What attitude would you like your ideal customer to have if you had one?
EC: If you study Brian Grasso’s work, you’ll see that he discusses how each athlete may be classified based on drive and talent. Your high-motivation, high-skill athlete is obviously perfect. You certainly don’t want to work with a low-motivation athlete. Before you can assist them, they must persuade themselves that they need to be there. Personally, I admire any athlete that is very motivated, regardless of their level of ability. The difference is that if the low-skilled people are motivated, it’s quite simple to raise them up. And since I like a challenge, I prefer working with the high-skilled people because it drives you to be even better. Because if you’re dealing with low-skill athletes, you can offer them lousy programs and yet expect them to improve. But I’m now working with a youngster that squats 675 pounds at just under 200 pounds. He’s a D-III player who aspires to play in the NFL. And that will be a significant challenge for him. He’s a terrific weightlifter with a wonderful mentality, but he comes from a D-III program, so he won’t receive the credit he deserves. So he’s a high-motivation, high-skilled individual. So that motivates me; I need to put up the best curriculum for him. Increasing his squat from 675 to 700 isn’t going to help him much. What difference does it make in the big scheme of things? Not at all. What I need to do now is look at the other components that will really help him improve, since his strength may be slowing him down out there. So we’re working a lot with pace of force generation, impact mobility, pure soft tissue work, and a lot of reactive stimuli. What might work for a high-motivation, low-skill athlete would not work for him in the least. As a result, it pushes me to be very attentive to my program and to change my code much more quickly, which I really like. And, more often than not, a high-motivation, high-skill athlete will arrive with questions. They don’t just want to know what; they want to know why, when, and everything they can do to improve. And, fortunately, we have a lot of men down here that are like that.
PN: What is the common denominator among people who accomplish their high objectives, whether in strength training or sports, weight reduction, or anything else – what sets them apart from the rest?
EC: I believe the key is synergy between all of the many components. They understand how diet relates with training, supplements, warm-ups, soft tissue exercises, and everything else. Everything. That is, to a great degree, how we attempt to model our company. Working with Carl Valle, who is an outstanding strength coach who is also an expert in recovery protocols, regeneration, and other areas that compliment my skills, such as biomechanics, maximum strength development, and working with athletes in the weight room. So, in a combination scenario, we could have a child in, and I can assist him with his nutrition and do all of this weight room stuff, and then we can send him out to the track and Carl can do additional work with him out there. Carl has been maximizing his recuperation the whole time. It’s important to cover all of your bases and have a well-oiled machine. Those who don’t have it these days will most certainly fall short. And the general public, who do not have one-on-one trainers who cover all of these various aspects on a regular basis, are the ones who need to go out and get knowledgeable in all of these areas. They must study all they can about nutrition and nutritional timing, training methods, supplements, and how all of these things work together. If you can do that and put it into practice on a daily basis, you will achieve much more than you ever imagined.
PN: Eric, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to speak with us, and I appreciate the great program you put up for our members. It is much appreciated.
EC: No worries, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. It’s been a joy working with you.
Our thanks to Eric for all his hard work in putting together this program for our members. To learn more about Eric, visit his website at www.ericcressey.com. Eric can also be found training clients at Excel Sport & Fitness in the Boston area, and is the co-creator of the Magnificent Mobility DVD and the author of the Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual for athletes, both of which are uniformly excellent and highly recommended.
Eric Cressey’s Off-Season Training for Athletes is available for download.
Eric’s Off-Season Training for Athletes program is available to members here:
Eric Cressey’s Off-Season Training for Athletes
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It will teach you the most effective diet, exercise, and lifestyle methods – all of which are unique to you.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to train with Eric Cressey?
It depends on the program you are interested in. The cost of a personal training session with Eric Cressey is $150 per hour.
What do athletic trainers do in the off season?
Athletic trainers are responsible for ensuring that athletes stay healthy and injury free during the off season. They work with coaches, players, and other athletic staff to ensure that their athletes are getting the best care possible.
How do I train for offseason for track?
You can train for the offseason by doing a variety of things, including running, weight lifting, and swimming.
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