Review of Perform Better One-Day Learn By Doing Seminar: Fair Lawn, NJ

Today we’re going to chat about Perform Better’s One-Day “Learn by Doing” seminar held on December 6th at Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn, NJ.  I’m going to cover the content from the 4 presenters, share my thoughts about their thoughts, and wrap up some take-away points for the event.

Before we start, if you’re interested in checking out more of Perform Better’s awesome education options, go HERE.



“Damn, these New Jersey fitness people like to start early!”  Fellow MFF Fitness Ninja Steph Wilberding said this to me on Saturday morning when we picked up the Ninja Mobile, just blocks from Times Square in NYC.  Trenta iced coffee in my hand and a grande latte on deck, we were ready to roll to Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn.


The event featured four presenters, Bill Knowles, Brandon Marcello, Martin Rooney, and Mike Boyle, each of who gave an hour long lecture in the morning, then a 30-40 minute hands-on workshop after lunch.  The “Learn by Doing” title comes from the fact that you get up, move around, and experience the actual systems that are being discussed.

To keep things together, I’m going to discuss the lecture and hands-on for each presenter before moving on.

Bill Knowles – Reconditioning 2.0

I missed Bill at the PB Summit over the summer, and I was glad to see him on Saturday.  His talk, Reconditioning 2.0 built on a previous talk in which Bill creates a simple distinction:

Rehab and Reconditioning are not the same thing.

In fact, they’re very different. Rehab is a medical model that takes you from injured to average and generally follows a biological healing timeline. Reconditioning is a performance model that is medically supported and focuses on Return to Competition, providing graded exposure to facilitate performance.


For Bill, the medical piece is part of a larger puzzle.  The rehab model traditionally focuses on what an athlete can’t do, while the reconditioning model focuses on what they can do.  If this is working in sports medicine, it’s even more important for sports psychology. (Trainers, take note!)

Bill’s emphasis on training appropriate movements that are segmentally correct and controlled allows people who are injured to restore homeostasis, then redevelop their athlete capacity.

This means a quicker transition away from “rehab,” but a longer transition back to competition.  For example, he showed us a footballer (soccer player, ‘Murica)  3-month post-op ACL tear doing a beautiful set of agility ladder work, hurdle drills, star drills, etc.  He then told us that this athlete didn’t return to competition for 10 months.  The biological healing time was more than appropriate, but the ability to redevelop capacity at a competitive level takes much longer.

During his hands-on, Bill focused on the concept of “stiffness” through the lower limb.  This began with an emphasis on absorbing foot strike or landing forces; rapid eccentric control.  He then built on that with creating force while maintaining that stiffness.  After several minutes and a variety of drills, attendees picked up on this delightful blend of power and grace.


Bill’s talk demonstrated just how quickly a return to ‘athletic’ movement can be:  He had athletes doing aqua jogging in a pool 3 days after ACL repair or hip labrum repair.  It also showed that “It’s not about how fast you can do it… it’s how slow you can do it correctly.”

The whole presentation served as a great reminder that incremental progression on an appropriate timeline is wholly important.

Brandon Marcello, PhD – Energy System Development

After Brandon’s talk at the PB Summit this past summer, I said that it was one of the best lectures I’ve ever seen.  I told him that on Saturday, and he told me that his ESD lecture was about a “C”.  He stays humble and wicked smaht.

For example, Brandon has basically put everything you need to know about physiological energy systems onto one slide:


This could have saved me thousands of dollars in exercise science courses.  The thing is, if you’re writing programs, you should know this.  You should also know how to simplify it for the times when someone asks, “Why?”

That’s what Brandon did here:


After beautifully navigating the world of Ex Phys 101, Brandon shared his 3 Rules of Thumb:

  1. Contrary to popular belief, puking is not ok.
  2. Improvisational periodization is frowned upon.
  3. Form follows fatigue.

Anyone can make anyone tired, but not everybody can make you better*.  Making things up the morning of the workout is not how we get better*.  Take pride in your craft, and learn how to create a better ESD program.  Technique should be a limiting factor when it increases the chance of injury.

Better*.  This is subjective until you determine how you’re going to evaluate your clients or athletes.  There are a variety of assessments to use, but remember, strength trumps all.  Don’t neglect or negate it when you’re conditioning.


Brandon introduced a chart that matches physiological load (Heart Rate) and mechanical load (accelerometer) to help track fitness.  If physiological load decreases while mechanical load stays the same, efficiency, and therefore fitness, is improving.  I love this system because it seems like a way to track and train two variables at once in a controlled way.  I’ve already sketched out a modified version for MFF.

Brandon created a 7 point scale to track levels of impact during training:

  • -02 – Non-impact, non contact (Bike, UBE, aqua jogging)
  • -01 – Non-impact, reduced BW contact (Pool Reformer, Kesier)
  • -00 – Non impact, Body Weight: (Rope, Medball)
  • +01 – Low Impact (Walking, elliptical, ADL)
  • +02 – Moderate Impact (Versa Climber, Continuous Running*)
  • +03 – High Impact (Jumping, Hoping, Bounding)
  • +04 – Maximal Impact (Loaded Jumps, Loaded Movements)

As always, there’s a lot to consider when programming these.  For example, running should be limited by appropriate technique.  Running with improper technique is far more wearing on the body than good technique.  Diane Lee, PT, has said, “You don’t run to get in shape, you get in shape to run.”

Programming these with other factors let us find training balance to keep the goal our number one priority.  So,

  • Non-Aerobic ESD: Strength, Power, High-Neural Exercise
  • Aerobic & Lactate ESD: Strength Endurance, Power Endurance

We can’t chase two rabbits at once, and Brandon demonstrated this with his ESD circuit after lunch.  We worked for 12 seconds at a time and recovered for 24, with maximal intensity work periods.  That 1:2 work/rest ratio seems generous, but it makes you push exactly how hard you’re working.

He proposed several work/rest periods and ratios that can improve any selected energy system, my big take away is that we must scale the impact level along with the energy system that we’re working on in any given training session.

Martin Rooney – Coaching Greatness

Martin Rooney was the king of energy for the day, and his talk keyed into the skills of a master motivator.  I’ve never gone to a Perform Better event to be energized, so when Martin takes the stage, I feel like:



While Martin is the Hand of the Motivational King, I’ve typically been Jon Snow watching The Wall.  To be honest, I wanted to not like Martin’s talk.  I wanted to think, “I get it, we need energy.  But it doesn’t matter if the training sucks.” And that’s what Martin said.

The reminder that technical information or coaching ability alone doesn’t make a great coach was perfectly placed after two fact filled lectures.  See, my recent journey in fitness has been one of getting away from the information.  I’ve been working to go faces first, not facts first.  Too often we see trainers obsess over the latest course or textbook, and they can’t write a blog or coach a movement in a way that makes sense.  Strength coaches need Martin Rooney.


We need reminders that if someone isn’t paying attention to you, it’s not their fault, it’s YOURS.  Your job as a coach is to do more than your clients:  To believe more, to get more, to worry more, and to make them feel more important than they do.

Using a rows of agility ladders as his coaching tool, Martin and his TFW team cared less neural intensity and more about emotional intensity.  They made sure that everyone had fun and learned in the moment, and they did it in that order.

Martin considers “can’t” a curse word, and I’ve begun to consider acronyms curse words as well; it’s one more thing standing in between movement and movers.  We need motivational coaching to bring us through that gap.

Mike Boyle – Functional Strength Coach 5.0

I’ve probably learned more information from Mike Boyle than I have from anyone else in the world.  I’ve moved on from content to context, and the continued education is always fun.  I admire the wisdom that comes from Mike’s M.I.S.S. and K.I.S.S principles:

If we make it simple and keep it simple, we’re going to do a far better job having things make sense.  While Boyle didn’t talk about business at all, it’s safe to say that when things make sense, they make cents.  And by cents, I mean you’re going to make a helluva lot more money when things are more simple rather than more complex.

The way that Boyle has created systems that scale makes his training seem far simpler than any of the individual factors that are part of it.  It’s a reverse Gestalt; the sum is simpler than the whole of its parts.

There are nearly infinite exercises that work to create the desired result, and far fewer that we can isolate as probably a bad idea.  Boyle’s essentialist antifragility is simple:  Eliminate what’s dangerous and you’re on the right track.


During his hands-on segment, he broke down two of the biggest rocks that are currently be discussed in functional training:  Breathing and core training.

Thing is, he made them one thing, and he presented the entire strategy without ever using an annoying acronym or polysyllabic phase.

When it comes to breathing, he noted the Value of Blowing Up a Balloon and suggested it as reading.  We then blew up imaginary balloons, which is basically like blowing out candles.  Boom, the diaphragm is doing it’s job.

We then transitioned to core stability exercises and rather than count for reps or time, we counted number of quality breaths.  Assuming that we’re still blowing out candles, this ‘new’ self-limiting approach to training the core is more holistic and more effective.  Here’s a Boyle prediction that I’m 100% behind:

Boyle’s continued ability to a) admit when he’s wrong and b) strive to know more the next time is matched by his ability to simplify, and it’s a strategy that I believe will dictate who is successful in making the biggest differences in the training world.  The big picture take away from his talk is that simplicity is success.

Let’s Wrap It Up

On the drive back to NYC, Steph and I chatted about some of the information presented, but we mostly talked about integration.  How can we actually use what was discussed?

Talking about information isn’t valuable; using it is.  Here’s a quick review of the best messages from our four presenters:

  • Knowles: Graded exposure on an appropriate timeline is everything.  Not simply for reconditioning, but for long-term success across varied goals.
  • Marcello: Periodizing energy system development is simpler when you learn and relearn physiology.  Tracking the process and progress makes success that much easier.  Prepare.
  • Rooney: Motivation is what makes us move.  Coaches often need to bring more energy to the table than their clients or athletes to help them get the job done when they don’t believe in themselves.  Or as we like to say at MFF, BUHLEE!
  • Boyle:  Simplicity is success.  The ability to scale successfully is part of what makes great coaches.  If you’re limited by your system, build a better system.

Bill, Brandon, Martin, and Mike were splendid at taking pertinent training information and sharing it in the most essential way possible.

Now it’s on us to make it relevant.  Let’s go forth and upgrade.  Better systems, better coaching:  That’s how we perform better.





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