Lessons from the Functional Training Summit

I had the pleasure of spending 4 days learning from some great teachers in Long Beach, Ca, last week as part of the Perform Better Functional Training Summit. It featured some truly excellent presentations, along with a host of fitness nerds in attendance from whom I learned over lunch and in the hallways in between sessions. Really my only complaint about the event is the fact that there were 30 presenters, and 30 of them were men. Yes, I’m absolutely serious. No, I’m not writing this in in 1972.  More on that later…

Back to the great part. I opted for a minimalist approach to my write up this year. Just the gems. Here goes.

 

One overarching theme of the seminar:

Glute activation is so 2011. Everyone in 2012 knows it’s all about the ankles.

[Place your bets for what the ‘in’ message will be in 2013? I call T-spine.]

 

Eight Almost quotables

[Translation: I am probably misquoting, and possibly attributing to the wrong person, but pretty sure I’m close.]

1. “Own the movement. Then go heavy.” ~ Gray Cook

2. “If we are ‘glutes active’ in the gym, where will those glutes be when it comes to walk the dog later? Will they fire?” ~ Gray Cook

3. “Motor control instead of stability” ~ Gray Cook

4. “Structure drives function” ~ Charlie Weingroff

5. “If cavemen had scotch; they would drink it” ~ Dan John

6.  “Loss of centration in one joint equals loss of centration in every joint” ~ Charlie Weingroff

7. “The brain thinks in terms of movement, not individual muscles.” ~ Craig Liebenson

8. “Final performance level is inversely related to rate of gain.” ~ Chris Frankel

 

Nine changes I anticipate in my programming:

1. Tighten my cueing, and form expectations with cable chops and lifts, including requiring each rep to be brought back into the cradle instead of cueing “keep the cable on tension”.

2. Use tall kneeling chops and lifts to help improve core stability for those who have trouble with the trunk stability pushup (TSPU), and/including those who have anterior pelvic tilt.

3. Up the weight for my clients when they do Turkish getups, but won’t require hips up on the way down.

4. Add half-kneeling medicine ball slams to my repertoire.

5. Implement a new lat activation cue (coach’s hands on the client’s sides near arm pits and tell them to squeeze the hands).

6. Implement an annual training calendar for all clients as a planning guide for both the coach and the client to ensure we have goals and that we have a path to get there.

7. Shorter warmups that feature more foam rolling (but with movement), fewer activation exercises, and more integrated corrective exercises, including some great ankle and foot work. This one I’m going to do as an (up to) 3 month trial.

8. When overhead pressing, cue clients to pull with the opposite arm.

9. Be more consistent in enforcing a packed neck during lifts. All lifts, but especially deadlifts and squats.

It was a great seminar, and I have lots more that I will be digesting over the next few weeks and months. These items above represent the “a-ha” moments, and in some cases, the changes I’ve been contemplating for some time, but needed a little push and in some cases new ideas to make them.

 

Now back to the problem of the ‘bachelor party’ of presenters… 

I don’t actually believe that the organizers of the event think that women are incapable of presenting at this level. I do believe that they have a big problem. I actually think this is a problem across most industries: I think we made huge gains in terms of equality for women up until about the mid nineties. Then I think my generation “took the reins”, but somehow feminism was a bad word for us – things were good so why rock the boat? And so the movement fizzled. The problem is, so did our progress. How else do we explain major events in 2012 with zero percent representation by women among presenters? Those of us in our thirties to fifties – I think we have a responsibility to future generations to step up!

Now in addition to the movement losing any sort of leadership, I think there is another problem:

- women tend to assume that if we are deserving, that promotions and opportunities will be offered.

- men, meanwhile, tend to ask for positions. sometimes even when they are not deserving. And because the person in the position is likely a man – who probably asked to be there – he interprets that initiative as a sign that the person who asked must be the most deserving. This  may or may not be sound logic, except for one thing: the best person is not necessarily getting the position.

I actually think this divide in approach happens somewhere around puberty. I witnessed it when I coached the Ottawa junior ultimate (frisbee) team. It was a coed team, with players from 14 to 18. The tryout process really struck me as profound:

- the best girls on the field were worried that they wouldn’t make the team.

- the worst boys on the field were sincerely surprised (and sometimes offended) that they didn’t make the team.

I think this difference continues into the professional ranks.

And so I believe we have three big changes that we as a society need to make:

  • To the women: ask! If you think you are deserving of something, ask for it! The answer may be no, but that’s okay; sometimes the answer is no. It’s not personal; it’s business. Keep asking and eventually the answer will be yes.
  • To the men people in charge: try to look beyond the people who ask for the position. Make sure the position open to anyone to apply. If you know of someone who didn’t apply but you think would be great for the position, encourage them to apply. I’ll be  getting in touch with the organizer of this event to request that they put a “call for presenters” on their website for women who may be interested.
  • To the men and women who are friends, family,  and colleagues with women who are deserving of these positions: encourage them to ask for it! On this point, if anyone knows of women who are (or would be) great presenters in the fitness industry, please email me with this information, or ask them to email me directly. I will be putting together a list and forwarding it to the organizer of this summit in the hopes that next year they will do better than 10%, which is their “best ever” of the past 4 years when I’ve attended.

 

Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer in Ottawa, who maybe, just maybe, has an opinion or two about things beyond fitness.

 

9 thoughts on “Lessons from the Functional Training Summit”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the kind words. :)

    Each of the warmups is still customized based on a person’s FMS, so there’s no “one warmup”. That said, the new stuff (foam roll with movement), and the ankle and calf work is something I’ve been using for almost all of my established clients (still sticking with my previous approach for new clients). I will get some video up of that soon.

  2. THANK YOU, Elsbeth!
    I am totally with you – I have had issues with the obvious lack of female representation in this industry my entire career.
    I DO see it as a problem.
    I respect numerous people in the field, both men and women, but I would be lying if I said that I am more prone to pay attention to a female fitness professional who knows what the heck she is doing. Why? It seems the guys just regurgitate what the other guys are saying…they scratch eachothers’ backs to get their names out, etc. Not implying this is the case for the likes of Gray Cook, Dan John, etc, because they are established…I’m referring to up-and-coming types. Thanks to the Internet, everyone is an expert these days and I am tired of having to sift through blog posts and articles that sound the same.
    I feel that when a woman knows what the heck she’s talking about and has the confidence to back it up, people listen. This is why I do not hold back when I have my “soapbox” moments online…although I’ve toned that down a bit, especially pertaining to the glorious CrossFit trend, lol.

    I have never attended a PB seminar although I’ve wanted to, but you can be damn sure I would attend something similar that was headed-up by top female fitness professionals. It would be super-motivating and although I am all for equality and feel that in 2012 things should be different, they aren’t…men are still the “top dogs” in every profession…I say it’s time we buck the system and make a stand! :)

    Yours in Health,
    Sarah

  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree – the learning is great. I just think it’s very disappointing that in a field where about 50% of professionals are women, that there would be no women presenters in 2012. This is the kind of thing that was the norm 40 years ago, but really shouldn’t be today. I think it’s a sign that we don’t actually have equality. I think it’s very sad. For the record, I don’t believe they purposely only selected men. In fact I think I covered that quite well in the article. But I do find it troubling that they ended up where they are. In fact in 2010 the keynote speaker at the Providence seminar, Thomas Myers, called them out on this very subject during his presentation. He put the suggestion out that they really need to do better. They aren’t.

    So you really don’t see this as a problem?

  4. I’m not sure why it is an issue if there were no female presenters. I go to learn regardless of what sex the lecturers are. I couldn’t care less if it happened to be all women if they were the ones I wanted to go see.

    It almost seems like you are implying that they purposely only selected men?

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