2012: Lessons in Lifting Part I

2012: Lessons in Lifting Part I

Prevail Strength Coach Jacob Goodin

2012 was a huge year for me. The 2nd year of marriage to my beautiful wife, the birth of our baby girl, a sudden move due to mold problems, expanded clientele and the addition of teaching PE and Lab classes at Westmont College have all taught me valuable things about life and lifting. In this post I will share one lesson from my own 2012 lifting experience:

Lesson 1: Mandatory and Optional Days

My work schedule during 2012 was different every day, and because of this I trained at various times and places throughout the week. Variety is good but for me it often leads to missed “big lift” workouts, which is no bueno for my progress in the squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press.

The remedy is to plan training days that you need to hit, and days that would be nice to hit.

For instance, for a good part of 2012 I was following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program with an emphasis on strength because my main goal was to get stronger in the traditional barbell lifts. However, I also wanted to focus some of my energy on deltoid and lat hypertrophy because (like most guys) I want to look like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

My primary goal was to get strong, and my secondary goal was to get huge (or at least huger), so I set 4 mandatory training sessions built around barbell lifts, and 4 optional mini-training sessions focussed on chin-ups, rows, DB overhead presses, and lateral shoulder raises. Most weeks I was able to get to the gym and hit my 4 mandatory sessions as scheduled and managed between 1 and 4 optional sessions at whatever time and place worked for me. My mandatory sessions were always at Prevail or Westmont College and accompanied by a full warm-up, good nutrition, and intense focus. Conversely, my optional sessions were performed at home, at the end of a big workout, before a shower, just before bed, between teaching classes–essentially any time I could squeeze them in. This led to more consistent progress in my primary goal (strength) without totally sacrificing my secondary goal (look like wolverine), all-the-while fitting into a crazy work schedule and allowing me to spend more time at home with the family instead of away at the gym.

So prioritize your goals, worry about what is necessary, and be flexible with what isn’t. Schedule what is necessary in your training and don’t feel guilty about missing the occasional secondary session–especially if it means you can spend more time with a loved one or pursuing passions outside of the gym.

For a hands-on look at how you can set and achieve your fitness or athletic goals, check out Prevail Conditioning’s brand new site for information on the best Private, Semi-Private, and Group Training experience in the Santa Barbara area.

Stay tuned for Part II

This post originally published on Jacob Goodin’s blog coachgoodin.com

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW, CEO

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Prevail Conditioning. The months of December and January are often times filled with celebration, time with friends and family, Christmas parties and get-togethers, gifts, and new beginnings. But although it is an exciting and celebratory time of year, the month of December can also bring challenges, stress, and difficulty. It’s a busy time, perhaps too busy. 

Our hope and prayer for you is that you take the opportunity to step back from the busyness, reflect, and continue to seek balance and meaning through the season. Enjoy people. Give. Offer patience. Rest. Play. We look forward to sharing this season as well as another year with you. 

Blessings and peace.

~The Prevail Family

Client Spotlight: Phil Ficsor, Professional Concert Violinist

By: Peter Blumert, MA, CSCS, USAW

For many of you, including myself, this may be the first time you have ever seen a musician highlighted in the strength and performance arena. Musicians are not classically known for their athletic prowess as it has long been thought to be detrimental to their skill set.

According to Phil, “Musicians don’t agree on much, but one thing they almost all agree on is that weight training is bad for the delicate technique that is required to play a stringed instrument. The most ambitious musicians I’ve found who espouse the value of physical conditioning over-emphasize stretching and call themselves small muscle athletes”.

In 2009, Phil started training one day a week at Prevail. His initial goal was to reduce the injury potential during his weekly soccer games and the occasional winter ski trip, but his real passion in life is the violin. He is a classically trained professional concert violinist who loves to perform and teach others how to succeed in the concert platform.

Phil and I started training this past spring with the purpose of continuing to build his foundation and to increase his strength. After training together for a month, I decided that he needed to focus specifically on a goal that would really challenge him. After some deliberation, we came up with the goal of him deadlifting 150 percent of his bodyweight (approximately 275 pounds) with a deadline of three months to attain it.

For the next 12 weeks, we met once or twice a week, and I gave him three or four other workouts to do on his own throughout the week. Although he was unable to get in every workout (work, family, etc), Phil did the best he could to do each repetition of every set to the best technical profiency and effort possible. 

When we first started this project, Phil did not even have the mobility to obtain a neutral spine position to pull a weighted barbell off the floor. We worked hard at strengthening the top portion of his pull along with other areas of his body, while he religiously worked on his mobility between sets, post-workout, and during his down time. I worked with him on how to properly prepare, both physically and mentally, to pick up a weight that he never thought he would be capable of doing. He learned how sleep, nutrition, soft tissue work, flexibility, and other restoration activities can make a huge difference in how he recovers from his workouts. During the last couple weeks leading up to the deadline we had chosen, we backed off on the volume and intensity to allow his body a little extra recovery.

At a bodyweight of 182 pounds, Phil deadlifted 315 pounds, which was 173 percent of his bodyweight! In the video below, you can watch him lift 300 pounds for the first time in his life.


Although the lift was not technically perfect, it was a huge accomplishment. Every weight he attempted that day, he succeeded (which is a great lesson for all beginners). He learned a lot that day and caught a glimpse of what his body is capable of doing with proper guidance, direction, and a strong will to succeed. Phil’s determination, commitment, desire, and intensity are what made him successful, not only is this endeavor, but in many other areas of his life.

When I asked Phil about what his experience has been like at Prevail thus far and what he most enjoys about training here, his response was:

“When I first started, I was honestly a bit confused as some of the things I was being instructed to do didn’t seem very hard, but somehow were! I’ve learned that there is a tremendous amount of technique involved in training, whether it‘s with external weights or objects, or just your bodyweight. As in most other things, there is a right and wrong way to execute tasks. In weight training, if something is done incorrectly, there is a real risk of injury or bodily harm. 

“I realized that my initial goals were not nearly ambitious enough to describe the reality of where I am now physically as I can lift more than I ever dreamed I could. I’ve improved dramatically as a soccer player because I’ve corrected many of the issues I had, such as asymmetries and a lack of understanding in regards to how the body works efficiently and most productively. I’ve learned a ton and it has benefitted both my sport and my musical career. Strength training has actually improved my playing ability on the violin, as I am now more, not less, flexible with an increased muscle resilience and endurance. 

“I have a great deal of respect for the Prevail trainers because of the knowledge and passion they bring to each and every training session. It might sound like a cliché, but at Prevail you are more than a number, you’re a valued friend. It shows in the quality of training that they provide. 

“One last quick thought that I love to tell everyone: endorphins are the last legal drug and they are a great side effect to experience following a workout. They give me a sense of accomplishment and relaxation, which helps me be a better dad and husband.”

Prevail Internships: The Best Fitness Internship in Santa Barbara

By Prevail Trainer Jacob Goodin 

A lot of kinesiology and exercises science students tell me that they want to become a personal trainer or strength coach upon graduating from college. They usually have some sort of athletic background or experience in the weight room, and some of them have even spent a semester studying for the CSCS certification and have a decent foundation of theory and science to draw from. Since I work at Westmont College, a lot of these folks live in the Santa Barbara area and ask me what they can do to get experience and a foot in the door. The answer is this: 

Do an internship at Prevail Conditioning. It’s the best thing you can do for your career. 

I went through the internship process myself, and can attest to the incredible wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience that each intern gains from Chris, Pete, and the other trainers. Recently John Vaccaro and Brad Pullen graduated from the Prevail Intern program. Here is what they have to say: 

I had not heard about the internship with Prevail Conditioning but a friend of mine was in one of Chris’s weight training classes at UCSB and told me about Prevail, so I looked it up online and found the internship program. I applied for the internship because I had just completed a personal training certificate at UCSB and wanted to continue my training. From observing trainers with clients and groups I learned how to teach a lot of new exercises and how to use cues to ensure clients perform them with good technique. The theory sessions were very interesting and I learnt about basic exercise science, training methods and how to design programs. The internship helped me understand the importance of training athletes for sport and how training methods change depending on their sports requirements. It will help me in the future as I want to work in the fitness industry and now I have some valuable experience. Everyone at Prevail was very friendly and helpful and I am very thankful to Chris for the opportunity to have completed this internship. 

~Brad Pullen 

“Engaging in the Prevail Internship Program was awesome. I heard from one of my roommates about Chris’s facility in downtown Santa Barbara and I figured getting some experience in this profession would be a great idea. I am an Economics major at UCSB and I feel that this internship is a great asset and an awesome learning experience. By observing Chris, I have an appreciation for the care that Chris and his staff give to their clients. Chris treats his clients with care, respect, and always brings energy to every workout. I learned a ton from Chris and now focus on proper body movement. My experience at Prevail was awesome. By participating in the metabolic and energy system development workouts, I have a newfound appreciation for pushing the body to another level through proper movement. I want to thank Chris and all the team members of Prevail for a great learning experience.” 

~John Vaccaro

Email us to inquire about current internship opportunities or click here to check out our services and products.

Staff Spotlight: Sandy Thornburgh

We are proud to welcome massage therapist Sandy Thornburgh to the Prevail Family. 

Sandy is a Santa Barbara native and became interested in Massage Therapy after living in New Zealand for twenty years. Sandy returned to Santa Barbara seeking to pursue and foster New Zealand’s holistic approach to medicine. She graduated from the Santa Barbara Body Therapy Institute and has been employed at Fess Parker’s Spa del Mar for six years. Her speciality is a combination of Swedish and deep tissue massage tailored to the clients needs and areas of concern. In her free time, Sandy enjoys playing tennis and spending quality time with her two teenage kids. 

Click Here to book a massage today!

Tips for a Stronger, Faster, Better YOU: Part 1

By Prevail Strength Coach Jacob Goodin

Whether you train to run faster, to lift more, or just to look and feel better, the tips in this series will help you along your way. More installments to follow. 

Don’t Train Through Pain

Runners tend to be a fairly obsessive group (I know that firsthand) and can’t stand to miss a day of training. But if that achilles is flaring up again, doesn’t it make sense to take a day or two in the pool while performing soft-tissue work on the posterior-chain muscles? Unfortunately most runners will choose to run through the injury until pain and inflammation force them to take a week or more off of training. I would take 2 days over 2 weeks in a heartbeat. 

Find an Alternative 

The same rule from #1 applies to those of us who lift to stay in shape. If a particular lift is beating up on your joints, then find a new one! Do conventional deadlifts put stress on your low back despite impeccable form? Then try sumo position. Do front squats hurt your elbows? Then try goblet squats. Strength coach Ben Bruno consistently comes up with great exercise variations that take some stress off of the joints while still challenging the appropriate muscle groups in a coordinated and effective way. 

Pull More Then You Push

What do 90% of guys do upon walking into a weight room? They bench. Then, they dumbbell bench. Then some abs, maybe some incline bench, and as a finisher they rep out on push-ups. All of this pushing leads to tight pecs, internally rotated humeri, cranky shoulders 1-10 years down the road and a hunch-back before 60. Remedy this by pulling more than you push. Plan for a 3:2 or even 2:1 pull to push ratio in your training program to balance things out and improve your shoulder health, posture, and upper back strength. For example, if you plan to do 6 sets of bench, then do 9 sets of various pulling exercises as assistance work for a 3:2 ratio (that can be 9 sets of the same lift, or 3 sets of 3 different lift, etc). I did thousands and thousands of push-ups in high school and college while neglecting my back altogether. Silly, I know, but I was just a runner who didn’t know any better. Once I starting training seriously (and intelligently) I nixed pushing altogether for 5 months and instead focused on shoulder position while pulling.  The result was no more shoulder pain, stronger upper-body lifts all-around, and a somewhat respectable upper back. 

Save Your Money 

Spend money on proper nutrition, functioning equipment, and a good coach, not the latest fashions from Lululemon or Nike. Do you already own a sweatshirt? Then don’t spend $250 on a designer hoodie from Nike. Do you own an old t-shirt? Then don’t spend $64 on a yoga-inspired t-shirt from Lululemon. Instead put that money to good use and purchase some fish oil, a kettlebell, or a functional movement screen from the trained coaches at Prevail. Do you waste money on yoga pants because you think they make your butt look better? Do some hip thrusts or make a t-handle instead, as thrusts and swings actually give your glutes a firmer, stronger appearance.

This would cost you $64

This costs $250

Record Your Workouts 

Don’t expect to make consistent progress as a runner or lifter if you are not logging your workouts. What happens when you run the best race of your life and can’t replicate it because you don’t remember your training for the last 6 months? How do you know which assistance exercises contributed to your squat PR? You simply can’t know unless you have logged each workout in a journal or notebook. Here is a sample from the Westmont weight training class I teach:
Lifting Journal Example

and one from my college running log: 
Running Log

I recorded these workouts almost 3 years ago, but looking back I can see exactly what I did each day in the greater context of the week and the month. I even vividly remember the Tuesday workout because our coach made us run an extra half mile interval at the end because we didn’t hit one of the times. At some point you will get injured, hit a plateau, or have a sudden improvement, and you will want to look back at your training to determine what caused your positive/negative outcome. Write it down! 

That wraps it up for now. Tune in next time for more tips on how to perform better in running, lifting, and life in general.

This post originally published on Jacob’s blog at coachgoodin.com

Muscles and Misconceptions

By Daniel Guzman, BS, CSCS

Recently I have had some of my female clients bring up a big misconception in the fitness industry. “If I do strength training, I will get huge muscles. I don’t want to look like a female bodybuilder.” Sadly, this perception of strength training keeps many women out of the gym and stuck on the treadmill! However, the truth may surprise you and hopefully change your perspective.

When it comes to testosterone, men are more hormonal than women. This is why we were fearfully and wonderfully designed differently. Even with heavy weight lifting, adequate protein requirements, proper recovery, etc; women will not bulk like a female bodybuilder. It simply will not occur and usually will be aided by some sort of steroid supplement. (This is not to take anything away from bodybuilders who are incredibly disciplined and reach amazing levels of strength).

Secondly, some women will not lift heavy weights in fear of bulking up, so they lift really tiny weights for a lot of reps. FACT: Muscle hypertrophy has a physiological response to high volume and when your repetitions are high (6-12), then your volume is high. (Volume-load = sets x repetitons x load lifted). For example, if you bench press 100 lbs, 5 times, for 3 sets, your volume-load = 1500. So even if the female human body could bulk up rapidly (which it cannot), you wouldn’t want to isolate your muscles and lift in a high rep range anyways. The thought process behind this is to raise your heart rate and increase your metabolic rate.

Learning to safely and properly lift heavy weight can be very beneficial. There is a myogenic response our muscles experience in which the body recruits (or builds) more contractile proteins from heavy weight lifting. This will increase your metabolic burn and decrease your body fat, which will get you to that “toned” body composition. Of course with all heavy weight lifting, you should only perform a movement that you can maintain proper technique and form throughout the entire lift.

According to the Nutrition Business Journal, in 2011 dietary supplement sales reached $30 billion. Why do men spend thousands of dollars a year on supplements? Because they have a hard enough time trying to get bigger muscles and achieve a “bulkier” physique themselves! If changing your muscular appearance was that easy, then more people would do it. Men have an advantage to be able to support larger muscle frames and yet they still have trouble reaching their goals.

Women can achieve a firmer, more toned, and overall stronger body from weight lifting. Plus, strength training will increase a female’s resistance to injury. Women will not lose flexibility or mobility because strength training can increase the two (which is a topic for another time). The NSCA’s Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, by Baechle and Earle,  have shown that women can increase strength at the same rate as men if not faster. Wow!

Strength training will not bulk up or rapidly grow a woman’s muscles in a natural setting. With educated programming backed by science women can successfully get stronger and reach their body composition goals in a safe manner. Even more, when women do lift weights, it is beneficial to lift heavy weights and not only for the compositional changes they will experience, but also to increase one’s resistance to injuries. Deadlifts and barbell squats are appropriate lifts, with good coaching and justified reasoning for the client. It all comes back to specific training for each client. Simply put, Lift heavy for strong muscles.

Prevail Conditioning