My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 8

After performing a large handful of assessments with our athletes at Cressey Sports Performance, one thing is very apparent: there is a trend of unilateral instability that is present.

How do I know? Well, I’ve been keeping track of these items in a fancy schmancy Excel sheet, and these things keep popping up! How these individuals arrived at a unilateral instability is also important, but from my point of view I am using the assessment process as a way to deliver high quality fitness and exercise selections.

Essentially, athletes (and general population as well!) are coming in with a predominantly strong pattern for favoring one side or the other.

A Few Thangs to Consider

1. As a strength coach and personal trainer, my responsibility is not aimed at ridding them of dysfunctional movement patterns – some of these dysfunctional movement patterns happen because of broken bones or surgeries, and it would be facetious for me think I can fix a bone! Rather, I’m all about improving upon their current fitness levels and referring out if necessary.

2. A lack of unilateral stability can mean: they need stability in a unilateral (or single leg/single arm fashion), or they need mobility in one area in order to stabilize in another area (providing more ability to move in an ankle or hip or even neck can clear up these issues).

3. If someone cannot perform single leg exercises in a dynamic fashion very well (Reverse Lunges, 1-Leg RDLs, etc.), I have to ask one question: why can you not perform this fundamental movement?

Rear Foot Elevated Pains in the Ass

1. Lack of Ability to Split Pelvis in Efficient Manner

  • If someone is extended, their pelvis may be tipped forward (think anterior pelvic tilt).
  • If someone’s pelvis is tipped forward, forward and backward control of their pelvis may not be present.
  • If forward/backward control is not present when standing, how much more will be present when asked to control ONE pelvis in opposition of the other pelvis moving in the other direction?

Pelvis - Weight Shift

2. Lack of Reflexive Control (or Stability) via Abdominals

  • If someone is extended, this lack of forward/backward motion may be attributed to lack of abdominal control.
  • Obliques attach on PSIS and ASIS of pelvis.

Abdominal Obliquables

If abdominals cannot control a pelvis, and pelvis is not used to controlling motion one hip at a time, well then that leads us down a path of a few exercises that keeps all of those items in mind!

Inability to control pelvis, or inability to control abdominals?
Inability to control pelvis, or inability to control abdominals?

With all this in mind, I find myself falling back on this exercise combination that will help initial trainees reintegrate training in a single leg and single arm fashion.

 With the initial half kneeling exercise, you are getting a couple of great items:

1. A hip flexor stretch.
2. Ankle dorsiflexion on the back and down leg.
3. Requisite stability of the lower half of the body while moving your upper body.
4. Scapular motion (protraction/retraction) on the arm that is performing the rowing motion.
5. A static (or non-moving) neuromuscular pattern where you have to stabilize one pelvis in hip flexion and the other in hip extension, along with maintain abdominals and torso that requires stabilizing while rowing.

Why is this a better option than other rowing exercises?

Do you like chocolate? Feels good when you have some, right? Well performing rows (like barbell rows) are like chocolate. It’s good, but this is like adding in Graham crackers and smores. It adds in a little bit of nom, and a little bit of delish to the mix.

PopTart Smores

Long story short, this exercise allows you to perform a single leg static hold, while performing a rowing variation.

Why the variation for a side bridge?

Well this is a single variation, and you can perform this other variations to get a few more benefits:

1. Feet Elevated Side Bridge

2. Feet Elevated Side Bridge with Hip Abduction

3. Side Bridge versus Bands

4. Side Bridge with PNF Pattern

With that said, the side bridge (or side plank) variation will allow you to work on the abdominals, obliques, and hip stabilizers as well to improve unilateral stability by simply activating them!

How can you program these?

I’m so glad you asked. I usually perform these as a secondary exercise selection, so if you’re following along in the home program, these can be done as a B1/B2 exercise selection.

The movement is a secondary exercise, or accessory, or however else you want to call it. It can also be done as a warm-up, or even added into a circuit if you want to get a little crazy.

Sets and reps are variable as well, and rowing variations can usually be performed for 8 to 12 repetitions. Side plank variations can go anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds, or 5 to 8 respiratory cycles (inhales/exhales).

As always,

Keep it funky.


Falling in Love…

Falling in Love with the Process: The Non-Tangibles

Within the fitness and perhaps even the strength and conditioning industry, many individuals are caught up with measuring and tracking information. From an objective point of view, this provides several benefits; what gets measured gets managed. However, one large part of measuring everything may be overlooked, and that is falling in love with the process towards your goal.

I am of the opinion that I will achieve my goals by any means necessary. Many methods are simply a means towards an end. This I fully accept, and understand.

However, many can’t get out of their own way, and I believe that there are a few steps that many need to undergo prior to achieving their goals. Firstly, being self-aware will allow you to accept where you are now. Secondly, falling in love with the process is necessary if you have a big enough of a goal, and can’t realize it in less than 2 days. And finally, what will occur if you have fallen out of love with your goal? Managing expectations is a large part of the process, and being pragmatic with your approach is necessary towards achieving an often idealistic goal!


I was of the opinion in the past that people will need a specific exercise in order to achieve a specific goal. Sometimes this is true, sometimes this is not true. Exercise is often a method utilized to seek out an end goal of improved fitness quality of some sort.

I was aware, but didn’t understand that people don’t fall in love with an exercise. In reality, for those who want to achieve a goal, the most successful ones fall in love with the process.

When you are attempting to improve yourself in any capacity, there are several things that must be brought to the surface:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you want to go?
  3. What are the methods that you will utilize in order to get to that goal?

In my world, there are several items that must be accounted for with respect to fitness:

  1. Do you have the ability to perform several different variations of movements?
  2. Do you have the physiological strength needed in order to improve?
  3. Do you have the cardiovascular foundation necessary to improve from workout to workout?
  4. Are you supporting your body with the nutrition that is needed in order to go from workout to workout?

You can measure tons of things, down to the velocity of the barbell that you are moving in order to improve a specific fitness quality. However, what does any of that mean in the grand scheme of things if you are inconsistent with the process? Not many fall in love with the technology, they fall in love with the belief that measuring whatever it is you’re measuring will help them get to their goal faster, and more efficiently.

This is like tracking your steps for the day with one of those fancy apps, or wearing a heart rate monitor for your daily walks. You don’t need an app to tell you how far you walked, because you probably missed the whole point of that walk if you’re tracking it. You probably did that walk by yourself also, instead of inviting a friend and enjoying an experience together.

Falling in Love

In some relationships, you can love the little things that a person can do, and appreciate the nuances of how they laugh, smile, cry, or get upset, but those things, while individual to that person, are small things that make up an individual’s whole personality and being.


The tangibles in a relationship involve what you did, in what quantity, and at what times you did those things.

The non-tangibles in a relationship that cannot be replaced involve your feelings for one another, your memories that you cannot replace, or your experiences spent together.

The Process

I used the above analogy in order to make a point – it isn’t the facts that make a relationship great. Instead, it is the experiences and time spent together that make the relationship worth it.

This section will make sense to those who are by and large, fairly normal people. This may be enlightening to those who are literally just like me – the slightly neurotic, planning the majority of my day (whether by necessity or not).


The process involves a series of actions required in order to achieve the end product. To make it sound less monotonous, the process involves understanding the pieces of the puzzle that comprise the big picture. However, some people might mistake the pieces of the puzzle for the big picture.

A + B + C … = Alphabet + Logic + Grammar = Sentences + Logic + Thesis = Essay/Papers

Understanding the capacity for what the letter “A” stands for is great, but you still have to have sound logic to create sentences in order to write a paper of any sort.

Within my industry, this is like someone falling in love with improving on a singular corrective exercise that is a minor part of the whole movement pattern – the brain works on a much higher level than monitoring the small pieces of the puzzle on a conscious level. Improving your ability to move is great, don’t get me wrong. But the brain, in my opinion and from my readings and research, operates on a much higher scale than any singular exercise will be able to improve.

Don’t mistake one piece of the puzzle (corrective exercise, facts in a relationship) for the whole picture (performing hundreds of workouts a year, spending time together to build a foundation for a relationship).

Not many people fall in love with the process in the fitness or strength and conditioning industry because of how much weight they lifted.

Just because I can hip thrust, a popular hip hinging exercise, with 640lbs for 5 repetitions does not mean I can deadlift this weight for that many repetitions.

And just because you may have set a world record does not mean you can now rest on your laurels – someone else may be gunning for your record, and that competitive spirit may be the missing component that you need in order to improve upon your process.

It is often the continual progress that many lifters are in love with. Athletes can be in love with any part of the process of improving, certainly. I’m not saying lifting weights isn’t fun – of course it is. I’ve worked in a gym for the last 6 years of my life.

I’m merely saying that even if an athlete’s broad jump improves, that is a small drop in the larger bucket of the big picture. As long as they make the team, are utilized, and are making progress, and staying injury free – that is the big picture that needs to be focused on.

Simultaneously, I have to remind many of my athletes who are coming back from an injury or surgery that they have improved their capacity for movement, and it is often very encouraging when I remind them where they have come from, and show them where they are now!

Managing Expectations

Many people fall out of love with this process for several reasons. With attaining any goals, many feel discouraged because they are not honest with their expectations. Similar to a relationship, if expectations are not managed, well then some may be in for a rude awakening. Trust is a large component of any relationship, whether it is with yourself to achieve any goal, or creating a foundation for a relationship with a significant other.

If you fall out of love with the process, you perhaps lacked the self-awareness necessary to achieve your “bigger picture.” Simon Sinek had it right when he made that book with the ever-so-catchy title, “Start with Why” – it merely makes sense to have a purpose for your actions.


Just like any relationship, if you have arguments or disagreements, but you love the chemistry you have for one another, then you might try to make it work… but it ultimately won’t work out because of other, larger circumstances that are abound.

From a fitness point of view, it is not uncommon to improve your strength on a squat from 100 to 150lbs in a certain amount of weeks or months. However, it is unlikely to improve your squat from 100 to 2000lbs in a few weeks. There is no process there – just unrealistic expectations.

There can be unrealistic expectations if you’re an athlete – you literally cannot look like another athlete from an aesthetic point of view, simply because of individual variances. Wishing you looked, played, or did anything like any other individual will go to disrespect the creative process that you have as a human!

Do what you can, with what you have, and pursue those options with a fervor like no other.

Powerlifting Squat

For example, I can’t wish to dance like anyone else, because I am my own individual. I can aim to model myself like others, but at the end of the day, my choices are mine!

Wishing you could shoot three pointers like Stephen Curry is great – but if you are a dedicated center with the reaction time of a sloth, it will be difficult to pull off that three point shot from the hip as well as Curry does. It is even much more difficult to actualize if you have a pre-existing shoulder injury that will limit your ability to bring your arm up to shoot in a reactive way.

These examples and more can cause you to fall out of love with the process of training if we’re talking about improving sports, or if we are talking about inter-personal relationships. Expectations are necessary towards improving towards a goal, something that can be managed on a psychological and emotional level.

What I can do involves setting realistic expectations day to day, month to month – aiming to lose 4lbs in a month is do-able! Aiming to lose 20lbs in a month is difficult, if not dangerous.

The Difference Between Tangible vs Non-Tangible

So what is the purpose of explaining the differences between the tangibles and non-tangibles of something involving goals?

Well, after attaining some type of self-awareness within yourself, I’m of the opinion that you can get really good at one thing by falling in love with the non-tangibles of a goal.

To go back to the relationship point of view, sure many people fall in love because of the facts – someone has a lot of money, or someone has lots of material things – tangible things.

Hey ladies… want a ride in my Batmobile?

However, in my experience I’m of the opinion that people fall in love with the things that can’t be replaced, or the things that comprise an individual’s being.

Falling in love with the process of a relationship not only involves being attentive to the other individual, but also being proactive and providing care for the individual. Anyone can give you attention. Showing care through words and actions and being proactive are the non-tangibles that cannot be physically counted.

Now to bring it back to goals… sure you can simply be efficient towards a goal by respecting the tangibles.

If your goal is to achieve an elite total as a powerlifter, I’d assume you can improve in several different manners: dropping weight class, improving strength levels, and discover what leverages you have in order to pass a certain standard of movement. These are all quantifiable and tangible items that involve being a powerlifter.

However, this does not mean you’ll fall in love with the process involved with being a powerlifter.

If you are looking to get strong, there are hundreds of methods of doing so – the lens of being a powerlifter is merely one more method to attain maximal strength. There are several non-tangible items that can be involved with powerlifting. Surrounding yourself with a team of people, encouraging each other, understanding the woes of not going out because you want to improve your diets, or improving your sleep quality by any means necessary is all a part of that process as well. Working out every day is merely part of the process.

If your goal is to get really good at dancing, I’d venture a guess and say that you should not be entering competitions in order to spark a fire that isn’t there yet. Competitions and auditions could call for a certain standard of movements, and performed to a certain degree or quality. Not many companies will allow a sloppy dancer within their ranks. There are quite literally certain tangible goals necessary in order to be a professional dancer.


If you want to get decent at dancing, well guess what? All you have to do is start, do it everyday, and fall in love with the process of the non-tangibles involved with dancing:  moving in some capacity to music, exchange experiences with others, going on road trips to competitions, and having shared experiences with music and dancing being the cornerstone of your dancing life.

Actionable Items

So where does this leave us? How can I qualify an actionable item for something that is largely unquantifiable?

If you find yourself getting burnt out, fall in love with the process by bringing to light the non-tangible items involved with whatever goal you have. Whether it is dancing, losing weight, improving your business, or any other goal – the non-tangibles are what make the big picture worth it all.

Look for experiential items that make any goal worth it – get your family, friends, and significant others involved with the process in order for you to make things stick, and make things matter to you.

If you have a quick and easily attainable goal, identify the tangible items that you can do in order to achieve those goals as efficiently as possible.

No one falls in love with the process of accumulating $100 a single time during the week – you simply just do it by not going out for drinks and cooking your own food. However, if you have a bigger goal of doubling your annual income, well then you better start hustling to fall in love with that process.

Next time you find yourself burning out with respect to your goals, hobbies, or relationship, ask yourself whether you are even meant to be doing what you are doing. No one says you have to do it. But it does have to be internalized in order for anything grandiose to be accomplished.

As always,

Keep it funky.


The Basics of Elite Athletic Development – A Q&A with Mike Robertson

Mike Robertson is the president of Robertson Training Systems, and co-founder of IFAST in Indianapolis, IN. He has several great avenues to provide information, not only hosting a self-published blog at, but also has a podcast titled “Physical Preparation Podcast” that has gained traction in the S&C community, along with most recently hosting a seminar with Coach Joe Kenn named “Elite Athletic Development Seminar 2.0.”

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Between all of these awesome products, coaching, writing, podcasting, and raising a family, Mike has been kind enough to grant me some time to ask a Q&A. And with that, I’ll go to the questions!

What is the general overview of Elite Athletic Development Seminar (EADS) 2.0?

With EADS 2.0, it was our goal to go dive deeper into the topics of program design, coaching, and periodization. Too often when you go to a course you just get an 45 minutes to an hour from each lecturer, which really precludes you from getting to the meat and potatoes.

Our EAD courses are the exact opposite. For example, I’m pretty sure Joe Kenn talked for 5-6 hours on periodization alone!

So that was the goal of the EADS 2.0 course – to really dive in and help better understand critical concepts within the world of programming and coaching.

How will this product be different than EADS 1.0?

The first EADS course was really Joe and I outlining our overarching philosophies with regards to training. Coach Kenn spends a ton of time outlining the Tier System, and how he applies that within the R7 (or in his case R8) model.

For myself, I talked extensively about our R7 approach to program design, how to write complex or complicated programs, and then gave practical examples in my “Case Studies” lecture.

I’d like to think that the first EADS course was all about taking that 30,000 foot view of programming, and then drilling down into more specifics. EADS 2.0 just allowed us to dig deeper and flesh those concepts out even more.

Mike Robertson

Has your philosophy changed or been updated since that seminar?

You know I’m not sure anything critical about my philosophy has changed, but I’m always tweaking and refining things.

I’d say the biggest for me right now is in the role of assistance exercises in my program. I’m spending a ton of time on the main lifts, and less time on the assistance exercises.

Consider a “pruning” or “thinning” process – I want to spend as much time as possible on the most impactful exercises, and then use assistance exercises to fill in the gaps and clean things up.

Will your R7 protocol be implemented in this product as well?

Well R7 is at the epicenter for everything we do, so yes, it is absolutely implemented here as well.

Release, Reset, Readiness, Reactive, Regenerate, Recovery
Release, Reset, Readiness, Reactive, Regenerate, Recovery

My talks in the EADS 2.0 cover managing in-season athletes, how to develop your own unique training philosophy, and then a second round of case studies.

So while I may not talk specifically about or refer to R7, just know and understand that every program I write these days follows the R7 approach to training.

In regards to the case studies, are you looking to provide more “return to play” case studies, or are there more cases of good athlete to amazing athlete?

Both of the athletes I outlined in these talks are professional athletes, and both had some sort of injury (one was a hand issue, the other was a nose issue).

Deadlift - Miguel 455
Case studies help you understand practical application of sometimes difficult cases!

So while it could be constituted as “return to play,” that wasn’t the only thing we focused on. For my baseball guy that had a hand problem, I think it’s cool to see how I amended his program and tried to rebuild his grip/extremity strength while simultaneously training the guy along the way.

I know you’re a big fan of Eric, and I couldn’t agree more with his concept of training while rehabbing. I think it’s incredibly therapeutic, and helps athletes continue to feel like athletes.

Are there any perks that you are providing anyone who buys your newest product this first week?

Come on son – you know we do it big on Week 1! If you order EADS 2.0 this week, you save $100. And if you want both EADS 1.0 and 2.0, you can get both for $100 off. (And if you’re a baller on a budget, there’s a two-pay option that should help as well!)


I’m a big fan of your podcast. Which one or two recordings have been your most memorable podcast to record?

Well the obvious one is Buddy Morris – and if you’ve heard the show, you know why.

I literally did not ask Buddy one question, he just talked shop for an hour straight. It was amazing.

Mike Robertson
Physical Preparation Podcast is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to most recently!

Outside of that, I would say one show that really just flowed was my show with Keith D’Amelio. Keith and I had never interacted before, but he was really fun for me to talk to, and incredibly easy to interview as well.

–> Discover the Secrets of Elite Athletic Development TODAY <–

I’m loving how podcasts are making it back to popularity – do you have any advice on someone such as myself who is attempting to make headway into that field? Do you have a sound/audio guy, or do you do it all yourself?

Well first off, I think podcasts are the new blogs – it’s easy enough that anyone can do it, but that doesn’t mean that anyone can do it well!

If you want to start a podcast, do your homework first. Buy some books, talk to some experts, and do it the right way. If you put forth a half-ass effort, no one is going to care because there are some really good podcasts already out there.

As far as the specifics go, I’m a do-it-yourselfer as of right now. In the future I’d love to bring somebody on to do all the back-end stuff for me, but I’m not there quite yet. Outsourcing is definitely on my list, though, as I know the quality will improve and it will free up time for other things in life!

Do you have any speaking gigs that any strength coaches or personal trainers can catch you at in the next 3-6 months?

The obvious one is our 2015 Physical Preparation Summit here in Indianapolis on November 6th and 7th. Beyond myself you have world-class coaches like Brett Bartholomew, Fred Eaves, Lee Taft, Bill Hartman, Al Vermeil, Boo Schexnayder, and Bryan Mann speaking so I feel it’s truly a top-notch event.

After that, I’m surprisingly idle for a little bit. We’re working on some cool stuff behind the scenes at IFAST, though, so if you want to catch up with me then I’ll keep you posted on that ☺

Are you hosting anything at IFAST as well?

We are a host for Joel Jamieson’s “Certified Conditioning Coach” course in January, which I’m super excited about. Energy system training is an area I’m really focused on nowadays, so I can’t wait to attend that.

The only downside is that the course is already sold out, so if you aren’t already registered you’ll have to wait until next time to attend.

Well I’m just about done here Mike. Thank you for the chance to provide value on multiple levels.

Miguel thanks a ton for having me man. Hopefully someday we’ll cross paths in real life, and not just on the Internet!

–> Check out Elite Athletic Development Seminar 2.0 <–

As always,

Keep it funky.