Functional Training

Coach Eck’s Training Session 3/8/13

by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW
Quick Thoughts:

  1. Another quick sessions this morning between clients and my interns. 
  2. Turned out to be shorter than I would have like as I spent more time on soft tissue (much needed today). 
  3. Throughout this journey of the last month and tracking my workouts it has reinforced a truth to me that I encourage my clients and students toward: consistency is key. Time and time again I realize that consistency trumps intensity or volume in my training. While both intensity and volume are important, it’s much more important for me to maintain consistency in order to sustain a training effect (in all facets: smr, mobility/flexibility, stability, power, strength). In short, getting in something is always better than nothing.

Coach Eck’s Training Session 3/7/13

by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW

Quick Thoughts:

  1. Physically exhausted still. Joints a bit achy. Another low volume day. 
  2. Noticing numbers are staying reasonably solid and not dropping off much as long as I can get some good soft tissue and warm up sets in.
  3. Feeling pretty good on BB Bent Leg Hip Extensions.  I think some of my early struggles with this lift is BB positioning and the first movement off the floor (feeling that I’m pressing through the correct arch).  As long as I pay attention to those two things, the lift feels good and I find not lumbar shearing or stress.

Coach Eck’s Training Session 3/4/13

by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW

Quick Thoughts:

  1. Low Volume this week: similar plan as last week.  Keeping my volume as low as I can (as long as I can get warmed up enough) and trying to hit the same or higher intensity in most lifts this week.
  2. Why?  I’m exhausted (which typically comes at this point in my mesocycle) and I want to peak within reason before I unload and change my program next week.

Coach Eck’s Training Session 3/1/13

by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW

Quick Thoughts:

  1. No strength work today (I already got in 4 days this week, which is plenty for me).
  2. Just a fun workout of 6v6 soccer with the Prevail team.  Our games, unfortunately, are reminding me that I am brutally out of “conditioning” shape for soccer.  A little unhappy about that as I know I have more fun when I’m in a bit better condition.  Will have to work on that over the next 2 months.

Coach Eck’s Training Session 2/28/13

by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW

Quick Thoughts:

  1. Had another opportunity to train off site by myself today.  Nice birthday gift to myself.  I enjoy training alone.  I don’t have to answer any questions about work or what I’m doing in my own training.  I find I can get a lot more work done.
  2. Keeping my volume up a little bit this week but not as much as last week.  As long as I’m feeling good and can get a lot of SMR and solid warm up in, I’ve wanted to challenge my loads a bit.

4 Exercises and 4000 Variations…

 …Using Motor Learning & the 80/20 Principle for getting more value out of less in your program.
By: Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW
One of my clients has a favorite warning (and perhaps intimidation technique) he likes to give all first time clients that join our Adult Athlete Performance group. He tells them, “Be ready, Chris only knows 4 exercises, but he knows 4,000 variations of each of those exercises.” While it tends to make the clients slightly nervous and make me laugh a little, there is absolutely some truth to what he’s saying.

If you’ve ever set foot inside our facility, you’d know that we don’t have a lot of equipment: 2 Power Racks, 2 Keiser Functional Trainers, 2 Glute Hams, 2 Slideboards, 1 Vertimax, and then after that we’re pretty standard (barbells, dumbbells, hurdles/ladders, tubes/bands, plyo boxes, sleds, wobble boards, etc). The reality is, that is intentional. It’s not only part of our business plan but a large part of our training philosophy as well. We don’t have (and never will have) a lot of ‘machines’ or a lot of equipment. Why? We believe in training movement patterns. Why again? Because we believe it’s of higher priority to improve all our clients’ ability to be a better athlete.

It doesn’t matter if that person is a 55 year old female looking for weight management or a 28 year old world class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu artist, it simply modifies which end of the spectrum we work on

I used to say that “we don’t use machines because you don’t get to use machines to help you move on the field or move around in your daily life!” I still like and believe that saying, the only problem is that I realized with every passing year this is becoming less and less true. Athletes still have to have high power/strength/stability ability and the motor control with which to express those traits on the field. Non-athletes still have to get in and out of the car, put groceries away, walk/run, etc. We do have more machines and gadgets and video games and technology to assist our lives so that we simply don’t need to move as much, yes. Understand, though, that this truth only STRENGTHENS the need to exercise and develop motor patterns away from and outside of those machines. The less we move freely, the more chronic deterioration and breakdown we have with our bodies.

Listen, the question isn’t if everyone has to deal with gravity and physics. The question is how well does everyone deal with those forces. One of my favorite slogans from a colleague Jim Schmitz (former USA Olympic Weightlifting coach) is “I will not rest as long as gravity threatens my people!” Great slogan that expresses a large reality…all of us simply have to deal with those forces…period. If not, we either fall into similar compensatory motor patterns (i.e. why 60% of adults have back pain) that feed right into injury patterns or our bodies just give up and we lose our ability to enjoy independence and life on our own sooner.

I like what Canadian Strength Coach, Charles Poliquin, has said many times, “Vary the exercise without changing it.” Often times (though not always), research in kinesiology helps us understand what we’ve known works in the strength and conditioning—and have therefore been utilizing—but haven’t understood exactly why. Over the past couple decades, for example, we’ve seen muscle physiology research lend insight to the fact that a squat is not a squat is not a squat. A few weeks ago I had a session with one of my metabolic training groups. As we got about half way through the session I started to hear comments ranging from

“oh good, another squat variation…because it’s been about 30 seconds since we’ve done that”


“oh dear lord…please…not another squat!”

(you must know, by the way, that I live for those moments). Yes, another squat. Changing the loading parameters, type of load, direction or placement of load, tempo of movement, plane of movement, limb involvement (single leg, double leg, or variation thereof), etc, all change the exercise. How? The research tells us it does so in at least a few ways:

1. Muscle fiber firing order
2. Rate of force development
3. Stability demands and strategies needed to support the movement pattern
4. Acute and chronic hormonal responses
5. Local and global metabolic demands

So what do Motor Learning/Control and the 80/20 Principle have to do with it all? In part, we’ve already answered this. Though we do have more than the aforementioned “4” exercises we choose from, it is absolutely true that we have a very select exercise movement pool that we pull from. Specifically, we make sure ALL of our programs include:

1. Pushing
2. Pulling
3. Single and double leg squatting
4. Hip dominant motion
5. Power (both acceleration and deceleration components)

6. Torso/Core work
7. Balance

Why so few? Because these are the biggest bang-for-your-buck movement patterns. They are the ones that both the average Joe as well as elite athletes needs proficiency in. The are the 20% of all movement patterns that, if trained, provide 80% of the results. Yes, there are a lot of cool looking exercises out there that boast big results. The truth, though, is that most likely we all simply need to work harder at the basics. This is where Motor Learning/Control come in. Decades of research tells us that to master movement patterns it takes, on average, 500-1000 hours of repetition (and quality repetition at that—perfect practice makes perfect).

Why do we use 4 exercises with 4,000 variation (or rather 7 and 7,000)? Because if we don’t utilize the basic pedagogy principles of mass and distributed practice, we know the motor control outcome…our clients WILL 

Lose that motor program = 
get weaker = 
decrease performance = 
use compensation =  
McGill, S. Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, 4th Ed.  2009.  Backfitpro, Inc.  Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Questions/Comments? Contact

Trainer Workout 7/12/10

After power and balance, the PCPC team tackled a fast-circuit of upper-and lower-body isolations. Check it out.

Circuit 1
6 Slideboard Push Up (place hands on slideboard, slide upper-body to floor and push up, pulling arms back together)
Inverted Bosu balance triangles 30s each leg
6 Dumbbell Push Press
Side Bridge with leg raise 30s hold each side

Circuit 2 (Upper-body Emphasis 8-10 each)
Bent Over Flys
Bicep Curls
Front Raises
Tricep Dips on Bench
Lateral Raises
30 second rest

Circuit 3 (Lower-body Emphasis 8-10 each)

Dumbbell Squats
Single Leg RDL
Lateral Walking Lunges
Single arm tightrope dumbbell carries

These are to be done in quick succession with 30s-1 minute of rest at the end of the circuit. 

Questions about the program? Ask any PCPC Trainer! Be sure to pace yourself and complete in a safe manner at your own risk. Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.  Enjoy!

Balance: Either you’ve got it or you don’t

by Will Hughes, BA, NSCA-CPT

While standing, hold your arms out to your side, shift all of your body weight on to one leg, and lift the other leg off the ground. Can you balance without holding on to anything?  Can you move your arms or leg and still stay balanced?  How about can  you close your eyes and stay balanced?

Unless you do this type of activity on a regular basis, you may feel a little unstable or just plain awkward. In any event, your body’s ability to recognize this feeling and respond to it is called proprioception, also known as balance. Balance is essentially your body’s way of knowing where your body position is relative to your surroundings. In unstable surroundings your brain sends signals throughout the body so that you can make the necessary adjustments to remain stable. Commonly overlooked in most general fitness workouts, balance training is a good way to help reduce chance of injury and pain. Having a good sense of balance is also very important when it comes to exercise progressions.

What are we doing when we train our bodies? Most of us are familiar with the phrase “muscle memory”. Muscle memory is essentially your central and peripheral nervous system communicating and telling your body what’s going on around you. In regards to balance training you are training your central nervous system to send signals throughout your body as quickly as possible so that you feel stable in an unstable situation. Essentially we are focusing our attention on a particular area of training so that when we need to focus on other external forces in our sport or everyday lives we can spend as little time as possible thinking about that particular area. A football player has enough to think about during a game than to have to focus on whether or not he feels balanced enough to run, jump, change directions, or tackle another player. So the idea is to train your body to do something so that you don’t have to think about it later.  We’re looking for balance to become like second nature.

Here’s some simple progressions you can work on at home or in the gym:
1.  Standing on one leg
2.  Draw the alphabet in the air with your free leg
3.  Keep your arms to your side
4.  Add a weighted object that you can move from one hand to the other
5.  Add an unstable surface to stand on with a bosu ball or air max pad
6.  Close your eyes

Once you feel confident in your ability to maintain balance on one leg you could also incorporate balance training in other exercises as a progression in your workout to make them a little bit more difficult/challenging. Take a basic body weighted squat for example. Normally you would stand feet parallel, hip to shoulder width apart, and squat. Now try a single leg squat (split squat or stationary lunge). Feet are now in a split stance with trail leg relatively straight behind you, and feet positioning is still hip to shoulder width apart. Now, keeping majority of your body weight on the front leg continue with your squat. There are even ways to progress further with your squat variations. You can elevate the trail foot, do a walking lunge, do step-ups, or use an unstable surface such as a bosu ball or air max pads.

At Prevail Conditioning Performance Center, we work on balance and proprioception everyday with our clients. 

William has been in the Santa Barbara area since 2002. Originally from Indianapolis, IN William received his B.A. in Mathematics from Earlham College in Richmond, IN. He played 4 years of football at the Div III collegiate level as a wide receiver and 2 years of Track and Field running the 400m, 200m, 4x400m relay, 4x100m relay and triple jump.
William began his path with personal fitness in 2007 when he earned his Personal Training Certification through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.  He is currently striving to work more closely with athletes. He has worked with summer football camps and enjoys working with young athletes to help them direct their athletic development. As well as working with athletes, William also does private training for general fitness, and leads core conditioning group fitness classes.
For further question, contact Will:

Trainer Workout 5/7/10

Here’s another one to enjoy.  Remember, always use loads, tempos and speeds you can maintain perfect technique with.  Poor movement with load = Pain.

Strength and Power
1a. Hang Clean 3×3-6
b.  Non Alt Bent Leg Quadruped Opposites w/MiniBand and Band Resistance 3×8 each, 30-60 seconds recovery

2a.  BB Dead Lift 3×8
b.  Push-ups on Bosu (with leg lifted) 3×10-40
c. Rotating Push-ups on Wobble Board Rotating 3×3-8 each
d.  Reverse Crunch on Bench with SB 3x 8-12, 30 seconds recovery

3a. Foot Elevated Split Squat SB – Foot Elevated Push Up 3×2/2 8-12 total
2. BB RDL – BB High Row 3×2/2 8-12 total, 30 seconds recovery

Metabolic Conditioning:
Each Station 30 secs

1. Mountain Climbers on slide
2. Jump rope
3. Cone Clock Drill
4. Box Jumps Up and Down
5. Sled pushes with 50lbs

One min rest. Repeat 2 more times.

Consult a physician prior to beginning any exercise program and stop at the onset of any pain or dizziness.

Prevail Conditioning