2015 Functional Training Summit


I just came back from a long weekend in Providence, RI attending the Level I Certified Functional Strength Coach (CFSC) program conducted by Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning (MBSC) and the Perform Better Functional Training Summit. I thought I’d share some of the things that I learned or some things that were reinforced for me in new ways.

I was fortunate to not only work with Mike Boyle and the MBSC staff, but I also attended workshops conducted by Eric Cressey, Gray Cook, Martin Rooney, Todd Wright, Gary Gray, Bill Knowles, Roman Torgovitsky, and Evan Osar.

Some random thoughts and take-aways:

Good coaching is good coaching, good teaching is good teaching; no matter the sport or the subject. Be clear, be passionate, be inspiring… and care about your students.

CFSC has developed a clear system that is applicable to all people; young athletes to aging adults, weekend warriors to professional competitors. Learn about your students’ functional strengths, movements, and limitations, and apply the program utilizing prescribed progressions and regressions to help them move better, perform better, and just feel better.

Especially since the work of the Postural Restoration Institute relative to alignment and breathing, the fundamentals of yoga breathwork, asana postures, and core function is being more widely accepted in the functional fitness world. Exhale deeply to engage the core muscles (like you are about to be punched in the gut is the way an athlete would describe it). Focus on breathwork to develop focus, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and to stabilize the core.

Avoid loaded core work that flexes and extends the spine. Avoid twisting work that twists the lumbar spine. Focus on stabilizing core work that develops a stable pelvis and better motor control, and mobilization work that allows better mobility of the thoracic spine (where ribs are attached).

Develop scapular range of motion for healthy overhead work to protect the shoulders from injury. Pulling shoulder blades down and back in retraction is not healthy for the shoulders. Scapula should be spread wide (outwardly rotated away from spine) and posteriorly tilted; the rings of your rib-structure should be stacked vertically (and slightly tilted down in front) to allow the shoulder structure to sit and “float” on top. Imagine “suspended” shoulders, not depressed shoulders! Engage core to keep ribs from protruding forward and lumbar spine from arching too far in extension (which in turn will cause forward shoulders, tight pec minor muscles, and aching backs and necks).

Design workouts in a manner which develop stability through a wide range of joint mobility using a rational approach which includes healthy, 3-dimensional body movements in the sagital plane (forward flexing and extending), frontal plane (side bending and lateral movements), and transverse plane (rotary movements). The CSFC system filters many possible movements into a system which includes a joint-by-joint approach to developing client-specific functional training programs. (Of course, yoga asana practice can be designed to do the same thing.)

Training people for performance has the added benefit of helping people avoid injury. Training routines should increase performance and help to recondition injured clients; they should not cause injury! Avoid movements and workout programs which exceed the limits of an individual’s capabilities or which reinforce dysfunctional movements. The goal of any program should be to reduce injuries.

Manual therapy (massage, foam rolling, and specialized self-massage techniques) is an important daily practice to move fluids and to develop healthy fascia structure.

Continue to include gymnastic-type training and strength training in my programs! Roll, stretch, warm-up and activate, focus on functional movements, train for overall power and strength, and include conditioning work. Our bodies are designed to be generally upright… walking, running, climbing, jumping, even crawling… train with this in mind. Core… hip-dominant movements… knee dominant movements… pushing… pulling… vertical plane… horizontal plane…

Develop an assessment or functional movement screening process to measure progress and functional improvements. For me, my next steps will be to learn Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen (FMS) program!

There appears to me to be much common ground between ancient Eastern yoga asana practice and Western evidence-based functional training practices. And more than one speaker also mentioned the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of training and manual body work through the intentional, awareness-developing aspects of mindful movement (referencing recent evidence-based neuroscience research, of course)!

I was impressed with the organization of the CFSC program and training system. As both an engineer and a ski teacher / clinician in my previous professional careers, I regularly sifted through many variables and alternatives to find systems or solutions (building structures… skiing movements… training material) that were clear, easy-to-understand, efficient, relevant, sensible and accurate. The CFSC program seems to satisfy these considerations.

The audience here was certainly different than the audience at Wanderlust or at a yoga conference. This audience certainly had more men than most yoga events I’ve attended, for sure! But, overall health and wellness goals, fitness education, personal improvement, and the desire to serve others, are common characteristics of both audiences. Similar goals, different paths, healthy people.