EC’s Off-Season Training Manual Foreword

By: Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS
“One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything –
and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.”
-Georg Christoph Lichtenburg

Not a week goes by that I don’t receive a dozen emails from athletes who want the secret to getting bigger, leaner, faster, stronger, and more agile in the off-season. They don’t want to just improve; they want to dominate their competition when the next season arrives.

While I absolutely love their enthusiasm, dealing with these individuals can actually be extremely frustrating. They all want results, and they all want them yesterday, but apparently they don’t like it when I refuse to tell them what they want to hear.

As you scan the pages that follow, many of you will probably feel just as confused as those emailing me do; you might even disagree with me to the point of refusing to read on. However, before you do, ask yourself if you disagree with me because you feel that I’m genuinely wrong in my reasoning, or because my reasoning simply calls into question principles and practices to which you’ve adhered for years.

Whether you’re a coach, parent, or an athlete yourself, this book might not be what you want to hear, but it is something that you need to hear.

In reading this novel, you can expect to rethink what you are doing and possibly even regret what you have done in the past. In the process, I hope that you’ll all walk away from this text with a new paradigm with which to view off-season training.

Conversely, you should not expect to find programming that you can simply copy and paste to use with your athletes, clients, children, or yourself. I am a firm believer that the single-most important component of preparing for athletic success and physical transformation is individualization, and that belief will resound throughout this book. All athletes are unique, and programming must reflect each athlete’s distinctive needs.

Yes, I have included sample templates at the end of this manual; however, the purpose of these templates is to demonstrate a sample “whole” created from dozens of constituent parts. If you want to learn how to create programs that address your unique needs as a coach and athlete, it’s imperative that you first look to the chapters that precede the sample programming. These chapters outline the means to the end; the programs alone will not tell you much – and they may not be suitable for you.

If you’re a coach looking to existing literature as a means of “pirating” programs for your athletes, you need to consider whether doing so is in the best interests of your athletes or just the individual marketing the cookie-cutter program. In no way am I intending to come across as condescending, as I’ll be the first to admit that all coaches – myself included – have areas in which they need to grow.

Rather, my message is that downright terrible coaches don’t look to the literature at all. Mediocre coaches look to these resources so that they can have someone else tell them exactly what to do. The best coaches read diligently and critically, scrutinizing everything they encounter to determine if it is correct and, if so, how it can be incorporated into their existing philosophies.

It is my hope that you’ll treat the information that follows in this final context. You’ve already taken a key step; you purchased this book in hopes of making your coaching and programming more effective in order to help your athletes.

As an accomplished exercise scientist, coach, and athlete myself, it never ceases to amaze me that the problems I will outline are even commonly found in the off-season programs of some of the most prominent strength and conditioning professionals at the highest levels. The shortcomings of such programming errors are “merely” significant at the intermediate level; however, at the elite level, these programming flaws may cost athletes Olympic medals, national championships, individual honors, and millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses.

Those of you who are familiar with my writing will likely notice that this work deviates somewhat from my traditional style, which often includes dozens of referenced. My rationale is very simple: you won’t find this information in your undergraduate textbooks or the peer-reviewed publications most commonly references in our industry. Instead, you’ll only find this information from getting in the trenches, working with athletes, and seeing what works. That’s what I’ve done, and that’s what dozens of fantastic coaches with whom I correspond on a weekly basis have done.

If there is information in this text, you can assume that it is the result of countless hours of planning, coaching, and interpreting the results we’ve found. It’s all about reading between the lines – not just referencing what’s on the lines.

This is a guide for the practitioner – whether he is a coach or an athlete. If you are someone interested in reading a review of scientific literature that simply doesn’t cut it in the real world – where “what is” predominates over “what should be” – this manual isn’t for you.

As powerlifter and coach Dave Tate, one of my mentors and friends, has said: “Science tells us what we did.” Science might point you in the right direction, but it should never tell you what to do. Instead, experimentation validated with results should tell you what works – and just as importantly, what you use in future situations to guarantee success.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that experimentation in training settings around the world is occurring every day. New anecdotal and scientific evidence abounds, and we must seek it out. Our perspectives should be constantly evolving as new information becomes available to us.

With that in mind, interpret the information in this book as a 2006 snapshot; many of these ideas may evolve in the years to come. Continue to read and scrutinize, and you’ll be at the top of your field and your game.

It’s time to put hidden agendas aside and apply scientific principles and some actual thought to our off-season training programs. It’s time to get to the truth.

Eric M. Cressey
May 24, 2006

You can get the Off-Season Training Manual here: Eric Cressey’s Off-Season Training Manual

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