In the summer and early fall of last year I was following Eric Cressey's Maximum Strength program and saw incredible results. It was the only program I stuck with from start to finish without wanting to switch gears midway through to whatever else was shiny and new in the fitness world. I saw incredible gains on my lifts (bench pressed triple digits for the first time ever) and finally saw a little bit of shape to my toothpick arms.
Unfortunately, at times I wasn't smart and overdid it thinking my spine is perfectly normal like everyone else's. Spoiler alert: it's not. My back became very tight and bothered me on a daily basis, something I'm not used to. To be clear: my back pain is not at all a reflection of the Maximum Strength program and was due to me pushing myself beyond my limits. Eric Cressey is a sought-after expert in the field and I highly recommend any of his work. Me on the other hand, you tell me not to touch something because it's hot, and I still need to touch it on my own to find out.
Before continuing training, I contemplated taking a visit to Eric's facility, Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA, for an evaluation. The very next day Cressey Performance co-founder Tony Gentilcore wrote a blog post about neutral spine that specifically mentioned scoliosis. Funny how life gives you little hints when you need the most.
So off to my consultation I went in early December. My hope was to be thoroughly assessed on all my imbalances and to receive general guidelines as to what I should and shouldn't be doing from this point on. I was described as having a left anterior interior chain and right brachial chain polyarticular pattern. Characteristics include limited adduction in one or both legs, inability to expand the chest when taking deep breaths, difficulty rotating the spine in one or both directions, one shoulder lower than the other, shifting weight towards one side of the pelvis, among other things.
Upon hearing the description, I immediately said to myself "yep, that's me". I was too close to the situation to see the overall picture, like trying to see the entire forest when you're only looking through the trees. It was nice to have everything spelled out and clarified. So spelled out that mid-conversation Eric told me to "stop standing like that". Got it.
I decided to go all in and sign up to train one day a week for the next month at the facility. I'd do it again in a heartbeat because I gained some major takeaways.
First, their training environment far exceeded my expectations. They specialize in baseball players from the high school to college to pro ranks. If you're not serious about putting in hard work, you'd stick out like a sore thumb. Speaking of which, I was mostly there while the college and pro guys trained which is a far cry from my normal training environment. But it was so refreshing. I'd rather be the least experienced and look like a deer in headlights than be irritated in a commercial gym because I'm surrounded by people who just...don't...get...it.
I also received great tips on my form. I'd like to think it wasn't terrible to begin with, but I had been neglecting the little things. It's amazing how tucking the chin on a deadlift or squeezing your glutes at the top of a reverse lunge makes your efforts more efficient. It inspired me to video myself more regularly to make sure I'm not getting sloppy.
Lastly, I received a great program for the four weeks I was there with a mobility warm-up tailored to me and all my crookedness. I love it, so much so that I sometimes run through it on my off days just because it feels good to do. I also have a better understanding on what I can and can't do moving forward. Sorry, barbell squats but our love affair must end. Deadlifts are still fair game though (so long as I use a trap bar)!
Oh, and did I mention my back pain is gone? Thanks Cressey Performance!