Tony Gentilcore is the co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA, and one of the leading strength coaches in the industry. We were lucky enough to snag a bit of his time and pick his brain about functional fitness. Here’s what he had to say:
Fitness Insights with Tony Gentilcore
In your experience, what are some of the most common movement faults you see with new clients? For example, sitting down & standing up, posture, walking/running, even breathing. What do people seem to have the hardest time with, even though these are seemingly “natural” movements that we should all be competent in?
TG: Oh, where to begin. First I should note that I work with a lot of athletes on a daily basis and what common movement faults I see in them differs slightly – sometimes a lot – compared to regular, non-athletic clients.
That said, I do work with a fair number of “regular” people ranging from soccer moms to weekend warriors and there are several common movement fault themes that I come across. From a postural standpoint people LIVE In flexion. They sit in their car or on the commuter train to work, they sit for 8-10 hours per day in front of a computer, and then they sit some more when they get home at night. To that point it’s very common to see people with a forward head posture, rounded shoulders, tight pectoral muscles, and weak glutes and core musculature.
Funnily enough, of those who actually do make it to the gym during the week, many will perform movements that promote MORE FLEXION (bench press, sit-ups/crunches, lat pulldowns, bicep curls, etc). Even worse many people will gravitate towards movements and exercises where they’re seated or lying down the entire time. Why, after sitting all day at work, would you head to the gym to do more of the same?
I feel this ties into why so many people struggle with seemingly “natural” movements like squats, lunges, hip hinge (deadlift), and even push-ups. 1) They never perform those movements and 2) of they exercises they do perform, none force them to stabilize their own bodyweight.
Exercises like the leg press, leg extension, leg curl, seated shoulder press, and the like – while all have their time and place – provide external stabilization where all the individual has to do is sit or lie down at a machine, insert pin, and then haphazardly move their limbs without really having to do much work or thinking. Conversely, have someone perform a squat pattern or a lunge pattern and they’re wobbling all over the place; you’d think they’ve had a few gin a tonics.
With machine based exercise, you don’t have to balance, you don’t have to control your bodyweight, and you don’t have to fire your core musculature to help stabilize.
For most people, most of the time, they’d be far better off using free-weights focusing on the basic, compound movements. Furthermore, performing these movements in free-space while standing will make them all the more challenging and beneficial.
Things like squats, deadlifts, lunges, rows, and loaded carries help to offset many of the postural deficiencies that accumulate when spending so much time sitting in front of a computer.
As a strength coach, where does bodyweight training fit in to your training philosophy? Do you think BW moves are useless, or do you incorporate them into your training plans?
TG: I don’t feel bodyweight moves are useless, but I do feel there’s a point of diminishing returns. It’s all about perspective though.
If I’m working with a 40 year old office worker who hasn’t lifted a weight since stone washed jeans were considered cool, it only makes sense that you’d want to ensure they can handle their own bodyweight before you place a barbell on their back and load them.
It’s ALWAYS about making the appropriate progressions based off someone’s current state with regards to training history, experience, and injury history.
If I’m working with a 25 year old professional baseball player is performing bodyweight exercises only for an entire offseason going to help him perform better on the field? Maybe, but I highly doubt it.
As a strength coach it comes down to figuring out where someone’s Point A is and then figuring out what’s going to be the quickest, most efficient, and SAFE path to help them get to point B.
Progressive overload is always going to be part of the path. In order to make changes to the body you need to consistently challenge it with more load or more reps (usually both) in order to make it adapt and change. We’ve all seen the person at the gym who does the same routine, with the same exercises, done in the same order, with the same weight for months (if not years) on end. Not surprisingly, they look the same now as they did then. And they’re also the ones who do the most complaining about “going to the gym “x” times per week” and never seeing results.
For more stuff like this, make sure to check out Tony’s website. He’s super-rad, and knows more about strength training than the Hulk.