Perform Better’s One-Day Learn-By-Doing Seminar: Fair Lawn, New Jersey

I wrote THIS post a few weeks ago about a statement that my Mom made about ‘real’ gyms not having TV’s.  She was pretty excited that a whole post was dedicated to something she said, while I was excited that she actually listens to me ramble on and on about scapular stability and glute function.  Turns out she really listens to me, because when I was contemplating if I could head to New Jersey for Perform Better’s One-Day, she surprised me with an early Christmas present and signed me up.  Thanks for the early present, Mom!  Continuing education is the gift that keeps on giving; trainers and coaches have an opportunity to learn and pass that new found knowledge on to their clients, who achieve better results, and remain clients.  As I refine what I’ve learned and pass the information on to others, hopefully we’ll start to see a lot more Santas who look like this:

When it comes to continuing education, Perform Better provides some of the best in the field, and it was easy to sense an energy coming from Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn before I walked in the door!  I waved at Ted Recitas as I parked, and walked in right behind Mike Boyle, Valerie Waters, and Gray Cook.  (Thanks for holding the door, Gray!)  I’ve already had the opportunity to see the 4 presenters of the day at the 2010 and 2011 Functional Training Summits, and I was looking forward to learning even more from there expert minds.  Shortly after 8am, Chris Poirier settled down the crowd and let the games begin…

Track and Turf at Parisi Speed School

Lectures and Learn-By-Doing

Martin Rooney – Warrior Cardio:  Secrets of Metabolic Conditioning

This was the third time I’ve seen Martin speak, the first two being the two Summits that I’ve been to.  Once again, Martin provided a great presentation.  He began with the accurate statement that ‘cardio’ is currently the dirtiest word in fitness.  Just like the egg, cardio has been on a roller coaster ride, with people loving it one day and hating in the next.  We’re currently in a phase where people shun any intensity less than Soon-You’re-Going-To-Puke, where it’s all about feeling absolutely miserable at the end of a training session.  The transition to this started with Kenneth Cooper’s Aerobics which epitomized walking or biking or swimming really slowly for a really long time. As step class turned into home workout tapes, spin classes, and bootcamps, the current view of metabolic conditioning is absolute Insanity.  We’re at the top of a training wave, with a all-or-nothing attitude, and Martin’s goal was to reset our training compass.  He noted the discrepancy between learning in clinical exercise physiology, and real world training, and provided this awesome definition to the question: “What is cardio training?”

Definition:  Training that creates a disturbance to the cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous system in hopes creating an adaptive response that decreases body fat, builds muscle, and improves cardiac efficiency.  This is a long term process achieved through appropriate, yet progressive physical training, mental toughening and nutritional habits which are based from constant evaluation and individual assessment.

[Yes.  Absolutely Yes, Martin.]  He noted that every training session should leave you sweating, smiling, and should produce results.  There are 6 factors that affect a metabolic session: Exercise selection, Speed of movement, Duration, Number of exercises, Rest periods, and Number of circuits.  When exploring these 6 variables, it’s important to have a purpose for each choice we make; don’t do something for nothing.  It’s also essential that we understand the minimal effective dose; more is not always better.  Minimal effective dose is important both during a training session, when we monitor work-to-rest ratios between sets, but as well as between workouts, allowing for enough recovery between training sessions.  It’s important that we collect data from each workout to monitor progress and ensure positive adaptations; heart rate monitoring would be a great example of how to collect data and measure the body’s response.  Martin’s discussion of metabolic training included discussing sprinting, barbells, body weight circuits, sled/prowler work, kettlebells and ropes, hammers and med balls, strongman and farmers walk exercises and more. I found that this slide to be one of the most important statement he made:

  1. Training is both Science and Religion
  2. Science mandates rejection in the absence of proof (Book)
  3. Religion asks for acceptance in absence of proof (Gut)
  4. Today, the balance of the two forms your “art”

It’s essential to find the balance between all-or-nothing, the balance between kicking the living crap out of someone and using traditional and boring exercise physiology as your conditioning.  When we participated in Martin’s Learn-By-Doing session after lunch, he explained that while it’s not about a trainer just working to tire out their athletes, it’s also about an athlete or client recognizing how hard they can work and then meeting that level of effort.  We completed a 5 exercise circuit twice, the first time with 1 minute of work followed by 30 seconds of rest, and the second time with 30 seconds of work followed by 1 minute of rest.  Each circuit was 7 minutes long, but the chance in work/rest ratio doesn’t make one superior to the other; they were just different.  The circuit included the following exercises:

  • Battling Ropes Slam
  • Med Ball Russian Twist (Tight Rotations)
  • Kettlebell Swing/ Kettlebell Burpee
  • Ultimate Sandbag Rotational Deadlift
  • Agility Ladder Quick Feet

The circuit was great, and I enjoyed all of it.  I’ve become accustomed to rope slams, and kettlebell swings, and was excited to try the Russian Twist, Rotational Deadlift, and Agility Ladder.  I’d love to spend some time playing with the Ultimate Sandbag because they looked really cool, and the agility ladder made me feel like I had the foot speed of a turtle.  I’ll be playing with the kettlebell burpee more this week, after receiving a compliment for busting out 10 reps in 30 seconds with a 20kg ‘bell.  That one felt like I was in an iron lung!  Overall, both Martin’s lecture and hands-on were great, as he both spoke about the balance necessary for effective training, and demonstrated how to balance work/rest ratios and exercise selection to keep people sweaty, smiling, and with their hands raised high over their heads.  I’d like to include the philosphy video from the Parisi Speed School YouTube page, not only so you can see the awesome facility that Bill and Martin run, but also so you can hear their philosophies on training and physical activity:

Mike Boyle – Program Design for Trainers and Coaches

If you’ve read more than 2 of my posts, you’ve either read something directly from Boyle, or something that’s been heavily influenced by Boyle.  Basically, I think the man’s really freakin’ smart.  Not in a alphabet-soup-behind-his-name, throw research studies in your face kind of way, but in the sense that everything he says makes you think, “Hey, no duh, that makes sense!”  This presentation was nothing less than what I expected from Coach Boyle, and he really delivered.  In Mike’s opening slides, he noted that we’re on the front line of innovation in exercise and training, that the future is now.

In the lectures, interviews, and articles I’ve seen from Mike, he always notes that he changes his mind on a regular basis.  This isn’t just for the sake of it, but it’s because of constant evaluation and improvement of his craft.  His slides included this Jim Rohn quote: “Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge, let your learning lead to action.”  Unfortunately, most of us end up repeating what we’ve always done, and don’t see much of an improvement.  In our desk bound society, we tend to reinforce our slouched over, T-Rex arm posture with the overuse of benchpressing, curling, and ellipticals and bikes.

Boyle’s not an ‘piece-of-equipment’ guy, he’s a results guy; he discussed that strictly adhering to one piece of equipment, or a specific training philosophy, is self limiting, and doesn’t allow for optimal results.  For results, do what’s best, not what’s trendy.  Our goals as trainers and coaches aren’t just about improving health or fitness; instead the absolute first goal is to prevent injury in an actual training session, followed by reducing the incidence of performance or work related injury.  After we take care of those, then we can focus on feeling better and improving performance.  It’s not really that philosophical; if our clients/athletes get hurt in a training session, or at work/on the field, how are they going to feel better or perform better?  They won’t, and you messed up.

There’s an art to proper program design and execution, and I think Boyle’s the king of the realists.  He doesn’t talk about fancy, trendy, complicated movements.  He talks about things that are safe when executed properly, and that provide results.  The proper execution comes down to proper coaching, and Boyle recommends John Wooden’s teaching style of providing a cue, telling you what not to do, then repeating the cue.  This helps when progressing through Wooden’s Eight Laws of Learning: Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation, Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, and Repetition.

An introductory slide included the note: “Two words: Unilateral and anti.”  That’s what the program design aspect of Mike’s lecture came down to.  It’s essential to learn both how to develop and resist forces through each limb, and most people miss this ying and yang of training.  Creating movement and resisting movement.  Boyle (and later Gray Cook) referenced the Joint-by-Joint approach, which can describe the body as a series of joints that alternate tendencies towards mobility or stability.  Much of what was said, and the ‘unilateral and anti’ statement comes back to the Joint by Joint and the measurements of the Functional Movement Screen.  I’m going to keep this section succinct since I’ve Boyled it down to two words; I’ll do some more writing on this in future posts.

Boyle’s Learn-By Doing included two 3 exercise circuits which embodied the ‘Push something, pull something, use your legs’ philosophy, which he attributed to Yvonne Ward.  Each of the 6 exercises called for a different piece of equipment:  The first circuit included a push-up using plyo boxes to elevate your hands or feet, a Swiss ball roll out, and a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat using Perform Better’s new Single Leg Squat Stand, which made for the most comfortable split squats ever; those things were great!  The second circuit was TRX Inverted Rows, ValSlide reverse lunges, and Side plank rows with a super band.  We completed two rounds of each circuit, with sets of 8-12 reps at each station.  I felt comfortable with each of the exercises, using each of them before in my own training, but I did notice that both the reverse lunges and the side-plank rows definitely challenged peoples core stability.  It’s a great exercise that you may want to experiment with in your programming.  Check out this video of Coach Boyle performing them:

Gray Cook – Mobility, Motor Control, Movement

If I like reading and learning from anyone as much as I like Boyle, than it’s Gray Cook.  His discussion topic was quite similar to his 2011 Summit presentation, and he started with with this philosophical question and answer: Q: “Can you define function as it pertains to movement?” A: “It might just be better to define dysfunction and then say that function is the absence of dysfunction.”  Dysfunction is easier to define:  limitations with movement competency.  This is separate from physical capacity, but is based on a movement standard based on risk of injury and poor adaptive capability.  The FMS was developed as system which looks at 7 primitive patterns and establishes a movement baseline.  Unfortunately, not enough people use the FMS, and too many people think that it’s the solution to all of the worlds problems.  The results of the FMS are simply a compass, not a movement GPS.  It’s just telling you where to look, not exactly where to go.  While it’s a starting point, it’s one that I think more people should use.  Gray mentioned PE teachers, personal trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers.  I’ll be at least two of those, and I know I plan on screening as many of my students, clients, and athletes as possible.

When it comes to movement, there are some limiting factors.  “Pain, however undesireable, serves an important biological function acting as a warning signal that all is not well in the movement system.”  This quote, from Vladimir Janda, is important; we’re far more likely to take Tylenol, or grab an ice pack, or rub on some EquiBlock before we stop and think,  “Hey, maybe my body is trying to tell me something.”  Gray discussed using the FMS, Y-Balance Test, and SFMA as possible assessments to use based on ones profession.  We know that pain changes movement, so it’s important to work with a medical professional to diagnose the source of pain, and develop a non-exercise strategy to manage or reduce that pain.  Gray outlined 5 major points at the end of his presentation, which would be accomplished by a rating and ranking system of movement:

  1. Establish a standard operating procedure for identifying dysfunction within fundamental movement patterns.
  2. Separate painful movement patterns from dysfunctional movement patterns whenever possible.
  3. As a general rule do not manage or treat painful movement with exercise.
  4. Within dysfunctional movement patterns identify impairments.
  5. Establish minimum levels of mobility followed by minimum levels of motor control competence whenever possible and retest the dysfunctional movement patterns.

If a system was in place that allowed all professionals to discuss movement with the same standards in mind, it would simplify many of the problems that arise between professionals.  Right now, the Functional Movement Screen is the best system we have for accomplishing those 5 goals listed above.

Gray’s hands-on session involved a quick self-screen of the Overhead Squat, Shoulder Mobility, and Active Straight Leg Raise parts of the FMS. Once screened, we were divided into groups of mobile or stable, and were able to coach our partners through several exercises.  Those folks who had decent levels of shoulder mobility each grabbed a kettlebell and performed Waiter’s Walks and Bottoms Up Kettlebell Walks, which helped develop scapular stability while overhead.  Gray also asked this group to perform a bottoms up kettlebell squat to press, and look for any asymmetries between the left and right sides.  (I was definitely a fan of that one.)  Finally, that group performed some bear crawls, while we’re a Cook band for support, to help reinforce their newly learned stability.

From here, the groups switched roles, and the excessively stable group went to work.  Gray demonstrated a corrective technique for the Active Straight Leg Raise, and then another for the shoulder mobility test.  Rather than provide a lengthy explanation of each of them, I’ll include two videos so you can see the drills in action.  Neither of them are Gray, but you’ll see the same movements he used.  (Video two is of Brett Jones, who’s also big in the FMS/RKC world.)

Todd Durkin – Core & Cuff

The first time I ever saw Todd Durkin was in a TRX promo video, training an NFL All-Star quarterback.  I knew next to nothing about football, so decided I’d support this player and his team; he’s got a smart strength coach, I bet he won’t get hurt, right?  That was the year Drew Brees and the Saints won the Supper Bowl, and I’ve followed Todd’s work ever since.  (Football fans, he also trains Aaron Rodgers, so I think he’s on to something.)  Todd and Martin must be drinking the same coffee, because they’re both very energetic when they speak.  Todd shared with us the core and ‘cuff program he’s developed over the past 12 years, explaining how he uses it with both is pro’s and Joe’s to maximize their potential.

All of Todd’s drills and exercises focused on some level of dynamic stabilization from the core, from the hips up to the shoulders.  When it comes to athletic performance and overall quality of movement, the trunk is the most important aspect.  If you can’t transmit forces from your toes to your fingers, you’re not going to play very well.  Contrary to what your college kinesiology class tells you to think, everything is connected:

Many of the implements that Todd uses in training require some extra level of stabilization from his athletes.  Most of this instability was going through the shoulders, via TRX Suspension and Rip trainers, Bosu balls, and a variety of bands and tubing.  These tools require extra stability through the Cuff and Core, and many of them turned out to be surprisingly difficult to use.

Todd’s hands-on session was definitely the busiest of the four, and I learned more new exercises than I could even remember.  Each of the 6 stations focused on different pieces of equipment, with a different coach to lean us through the activities.  The stations included slide boards, the TRX Rip Trainer, Kettlbells, Superbands, Swiss Balls, and Exercise Bands.  Each station focused on using the specific piece of equipment to target the trunk or the musculature of the rotator cuff; providing a list of every exercise would take quite a while.  Instead I’ve included a video from Todd’s Fitness Quest 10 YouTube account so you can see him in action at his gym, using the new TRX Rip Trainer.

During lunch, I had a wonderful opportunity to chat with my buddy Jon Goodman, who has created the awesome website The Personal Training Development Center.  We walked a few blocks along with his friends Rob King (who already reviewed the seminar!), Eddie Fantastic, and Danielle, who was nice enough to take a picture of the 4 guys:

Rob King, Eddie Fantastic, Jon Goodman, and myself!

Those four had traveled all the way down from Canada (Toronto and Newfoundland) to make it to the conference, which is pretty impressive.  I hope I’m one day able to get into their neck(s) of the woods and see where they train.  On the way to the diner we ran in to Valerie Waters, celebrity trainer and creator of the ValSlides, and we were able to talk shop about versatile exercise equipment while waiting for our food.  (Val, I forgot to talk to you about Jessica Biel… Can you try to set that up; I’ll be Mr. Jessica Biel. Can you at least let her know I’m alive?  No?  Crap…)  Jon and I caught up after the hands-on sessions were over, and we were both sweaty messes; definitely a good thing.  It was nice to run into him and other like minded individuals, and I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned to my clients programs, my own programs, and what I write about.  Look forward to plenty of new videos and posts in the next few weeks!

Now, it’s time for a totally unsolicited plug:

Here you’ll find the link to the rest of Perform Better’s One-Day Learn-By-Doing Seminars.  If you’re a trainer, coach, physical therapist, physical education teacher, or involved in exercise in any way, I’d highly suggested you try to make it to one of the events.  You’ll leave with a wealth of new information that will enhance your skill set, network with passionate professionals, and get hands on experience with some of the best minds in the field.  I’ve attended the 2010 and 2011 Functional Training Summits, and I’m already planning for the 2012 event.  Perform Better isn’t just concerned with selling products; they want to sell products to people who really know how to use them!  If you want to learn more, click through to learn about the variety of Functional Training Seminars that they offer.  (You may also want to take advantage of the free shipping they have through the end of the year, and the sales up to 25% off!)

6 Replies to “Perform Better’s One-Day Learn-By-Doing Seminar: Fair Lawn, New Jersey”

    1. Hey, if there’s anything happening up in Toronto, let me know and I’ll make the trek up there! Any chance you’re going to be at the PB Summit or the NSCA National Conference? They’re both in Providence, Rhode Island this summer.

  1. Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thanks, However I am having problems with your RSS.
    I don’t understand the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anybody who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

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