The Chicago PerformBetter 4 Day Summit Review

 And finally, we get to kick off my review of the 4 Day PerformBetter Summit (technically it's labelled as a 3 Day Summit but offers an extra day free, which of course I attended). Because so much happened over the 4 Days it would take me ages to put it all in one post so I'll split it into 4 posts, one for each day. 

A quick note to say I will of course be sending my subscribers all the recordings and more, so if you haven't already, get to the Community section and put in your email. 

And so I began the conference with a two train and and 10 minute walk to the McCormick Place Convention Centre, which I had just found out was the biggest convention centre in America. Which left me sincerely hoping that they kept all their talks within the one building!

Thankfully, they did and the registration was painless. Credit to PerformBetter for setting up such a great experience. And with the registration finalized, the conference kicked off with Gray Cook and Greg Rose's talk entitled; "3 Principles you can apply to any movement". And so begins my review.

3 Principles you can Apply to Any Movement by Gray Cook & Greg Rose

Behind the Magician's Screen

Okay, so anyone who has known me for more than 5 minutes knows that I'm not a fan of Functional Movement Screen. Hence the subtitle above (See what I did there!). But, when travelling to the talk I made a solemn vow under God, Jesus and Satan (just to cover my bases), to go into Gray's talk with an open mind. After all, his system has undoubtedly changed the way fitness professionals look at training, and FMS is not without its uses (a fact I've never disputed). So I was interested to hear what it's creator had to say, regardless of any disagreements I have with the system or how its used (or overused) today.

And wow I couldn't have gotten a more comprehensive experience in the two hour talk. It included Gray's talk, Greg's talk, myself being brought up in front of the entire room and being tested with the FMS and assessed by Cook and Rose, and a final Q&A with both speakers.

So Gray started the talk with the usual spiel. Don't train for ego, ensure good movement quality, don't load dysfunction. Blah blah blah. My first surprise in retrospect was that he didn't attempt to address the recent studies that attempted to correlate FMS scores with Injury prediction, aside from merely stating that his tests were not meant to be used for Injury Prevention, merely as a starting point to identify imbalances. However, they then started talking about how safety in developing clients come first and how to apply the three principles of Protect - ensure the athlete remains Injury free, Correct - employ methods to minimize any Muscle imbalances and prevent any future problems, and Develop- Finally when injuries are a distant worry, then work on developing Strength, Speed, etc. A principle I found myself thoroughly agreeing with. They then ran through how to explain to a client why you may have to focus on corrective work so heavily initially, saying to remind them that it's a long term process that Injury shouldn't be allowed disrupt. Although I did wonder why they didn't address the fact that it is possible to include Injury Prevention in a developmental program. Rose then went into recognition of whether a clients pain or issue was a result of the environment the athlete is in (something they're doing) or due to the athlete themselves (disease, inherited musculoskeletal issue). By the half way point of the talk I was actually looking forward to a great Injury Prevention and movement correction talk. But instead, Gray then jumped into the whole natural movement Bullshit! He actually spent 5 minutes talking about how any of us would have been bested athletically by Tarzan! Tarzan! His justification being that Tarzan survived natures test which were better than any artificial Conditioning created by humans. Let's leave aside the fact that Tarzan was a fictional character. Even if he wasnt, he would have most likely been killed by polio, the flu, rubella or any of the hundred diseases that we're vaccinated against. But that's not what he meant right?! He's speaking athletically. Fair enough. How long do you think Tarzan's joints would have held out with all the running jumping and inefficient landing he did? Not to mention if he got an injury. See many clinics in the jungle? Me neither!

This was only the start of where our disagreements began. Cook actually asked for two volunteers to demonstrate the efficacy of FMS testing. And wouldn't you know it, I got picked. So we ran through the battery of tests, with my left side showing signs of greater tightness than my right (makes sense, thats my jab arm) and my Hamstrings showing signs of tightness, again making sense seeing as how I never do much full range moving with my legs, being a boxer, everything is short steps. But here's where things got weird. Gray stood me in front of the hall and basically asked what my goals were. I stated it was to improve technical Performance and skill acquisition. I also stated that Injury Prevention was always something I kept in mind. Normal enough. Gray asked me if I felt I was strong enough physically when against an opponent. I said I thought so. He asked if I felt fast enough. I sad yeah. He then asked if I ever had much difficulty with fitness. I said not usually. 

But then things got strange. He then asked me how I thought I would fair if I wrestled my opponent to the ground and started a grappling match. I was a bit taken a back but I said I felt I wouldn't fair that well considering I've never trained in grappling techniques before. He nodded as if he was diagnosing a problem and then asked me an even stranger question, how do I feel I would perform in a work thing match with my opponent?! I said I don't usually Sprint because of my tight Hamstrings and then he nodded again. At this point I couldn't help but feel I was being asked loaded questions here. He then asked me to perform a few movements and asked if I could feel pain. I said no. He then kept asking if I was sure. I eventually said I felt a bit of tightness bug no pain. Both him and Greg Rose didn't seem to like those answers because they then went on to explain how some Athletes can be too proud to admit if they feel pain, or try to justify it away. After explaining that I clearly had some Mobility issues (based on my denial, as Gray put it) I was asked to sit down and the other volunteers were assessed in, what I thought, was a similarly biased way. When I brought up the point that I haven't been injured in 3 years and none of my clients have either, despite performing poorly on some of the FMS tests, they explained how my clients must have been using their poor Mobility or stiffness to "rush through" certain movements like the Back Squat and that problems could occur later on down the road (funny because some of my clients have been with me Injury free for 3 years now). However, Gray did raise an interesting point about Boxers, saying he found they usually have forward flexed necks and that soft tissue work along with farmers carries could help (Although he did recommend Farmers Carries as a remedy for literally every imbalance he talked about. Yet another issue I had with the talk).

Gray and Greg then wrapped up the talk by summarizing the Protect, Correct and Develop Principles, and the importance of ensuring whether the pain or limitation a client is feeling is due to them or their environment. It's worth noting that there was no mention of hereditary joint shape (such as taking into consideration if a client has deep or shallow hips) or ligament length or joint laxity, every problem regarding posture a person had was labelled as a muscular length tension problem that could be detected with the FMS. Which was a gaping hole in the talk and the subject of body alignment and posture as a whole!

Overall, I was pretty disappointed at how the talk went considering it started so well and the basic principles they were trying to preach arevgood principles, in my opinion. Just a shame that Cook & Rose seemed more interested in overemphasizing the value of the FMS screen over an integrated view of the FMS screen and associated corrective exercise could Augment development.

Rick Mayo: Building Your Dream

Rick brought the Flair

After a fifteen minute break, that was very welcome, the business-oriented talk with Rick Mayo began. Truth be told, going in I didn't even know who this guy was. Only finding out halfway into the talk that the guy runs the most profitable gyms per square foot in North America (North Point Gyms), not to mention a gym licencing and business consultation company. This guy was arrogant, foul-mouthed, crude and one of the best damn speakers at the entire conference. If he wasn't maiking a point about business practices, he was sharing his last experiences with certain business tactics or cracking one of many hilarious jokes throughout the talk.

He started the talk by introducing who he was and started into a story about how he came to realise he had finally reached his entrepreneurial goals, by being locked out of his gym (because his staff changed the locks) and having to deal with the police (because they installed a new alarm as well), his point being that his gym had finally become self-sufficient.

He then went into a number of brilliant marketing ideas, from developing a marketing calendar for Facebook Posts on the business page to using emails and texts to try and attract back old clients, via messages offering deals and discounts for past clients and delivering marketing care packages to other businesses under the guise of a "Business of the Month" award.

He then went into the size of a personal trainer's facility and the best focus for each facility size. For example, if the facility is under 3,000sq. ft. the best play is to run personal training or small group training, however, if the facility is larger, then Personal training AND group classes were recommended. 

He also gave a few tips on personal development, one tip being to, each day, write down five tasks that you will accomplish each day.

Fast forward through a few extremely funny videos making fun of current fitness trends and he then went into the process of hiring people, emphasizing that he was "the dumbest person on his team". Throughout an hour and a half of talking this guy never lost the interest of the audience. Wrapping up his talk with the usual quick company advertisement, it was hard to believe that Mayo had compacted so much into a ninety minute talk. Where Cook's talk dragged in places, Rick cleverly alternated between humour, sharing experiences and giving solid business tips. Overall, it was hard to stay away from his second talk later that weekend, though I had to because one of my favourite speakers was on at the same time. When it came to giving business talks, Rick may have picked the perfect Secondary job.

nd with the end of Mayo's talk, that concluded Day 1 of the Seminar. I'll be writing up on Day 2 soon enough. Though in the interest of keeping things fresh I'll be posting a few more science and coaching focused articles in the meantime. And if you're interested in receiving the recording of all the talks I attended in the meantime, just subscribe and add me on Dropbox ( Just be aware that you'll need to subscribe first to get the recordings.

So, until the next post,

Stay Fit.


Variation or Consistency in Training: Which is Best?

Yesterday I was chatting to my brother, who himself happens to be a Head Coach and manager with the North Dublin Schoolboy League in Soccer, during a training session and he asked "Why do we always do weightlifting as a means of training?" To which I immediately answered "because its the best way to train for what we're looking for", the "what" in question being an improvement in physique and overall health (which for men generally means a slimmer waistline, bigger arms and chest and that coveted V shape, and, in terms of improved health, being able to climb the stairs and run for the bus, or, for the older males, being able to play with kids and grandkids, all without feeling like our hearts are gonna explode!). 

"But you've become obsessed with bodybuilding", he claims, " What about Cardio? Why not throw some High Intensity Interval Training or circuits into your programs?" 

"Well there's a couple of reasons" I reply, "Firstly, you can similar cardiovascular benefits from resistance training as purely cardiovascular training including a stronger heart and improved blood pressure (Fleck, 1988), secondly, high intensity interval training is mentally very challenging for new clients compared to resistance training and can cause quite a lot of drop outs in my experience, thirdly repeated endurance or cardiovascular training can interfere with muscle growth on a metabolic and physiological level (Coffey et Hawley, 2007),which, for most of my clients is the primary goal of their training and finally its simply the fastest and most efficient way of achieving the goals were looking for."

Now, don't get me wrong! I'm not Anti-Cardio In any sense of the word. I spent 11 years competing in Boxing. So I know just how vital good cardiovascular conditioning is. And for my clients who are athletes I make sure to include Cardio Conditioning into their programs. But most of my clients aren't looking to break a 4 minute mile or go 3 rounds with an opponent for a championship belt. So why subject them to unnecessarily difficult cardio training if they don't need to reach any more than a basic level of conditioning?

But it got me thinking about training programs. Which should take precedence Variety or a Consistent, focused program?

Now, when I talk about variety, I'm not just talking about a slight change in training focus, as happens in Periodization regularly and hence is constantly utilized in my programs (hell, when my brother and I had our conversation we were just coming off a Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth) phase of training and heading into a Maximum Strength (Pure Strength) phase of training) I'm referring to varying the training methods to such a degree that both a different method is being used and a different, relatively unrelated, fitness quality is being trained, e.g. doing resistance training on Monday, an long steady jog Wednesday and some Yoga on Friday. In that case completely different body systems and muscle qualities are being trained. This type of training is called Complex or Concurrent Training (Training with many focuses) by some. With a consistent and focused program, the client would focus on one fitness quality to improve, e.g. Increased Muscle Mass. So a training program would focus purely on improving that one quality, i.e. Hypertrophy based resistance training on Monday, Hypertrophy based Resistance training on Wednesday, and Hypertrophy based Resistance Training on Friday. 

So, should we prioritize variety or consistency?

As with every question, the best answer is usually started with "It depends".

In terms of ordinary clients with the goals of increasing overall health and physique and don't have a very extensive training background, varying the training, and how much you decide to vary it, really depends on how quickly they want to achieve their goals, as a consistent and focused program will help them achieve greater muscle mass faster than a highly varied program (Verkhoshansky et. Siff, 2006), however both types of programs will help them achieve better overall health and quality of life. The highly varied program could also help their long term adherence to exercise and prevent mental burnout or boredom, although mixing heavy resistance training with high intensity interval training can increase the risk of overtraining if not carefully programmed. 

For Athletes, however, the rules change. Consistency, in my opinion at least, is king for all athletes except the beginner athlete with a nearly nonexistent training history. This is because when programming an athletes training, he or she is generally coming to you because there is a specific fitness quality they are lacking. And so it is your job to improve that fitness quality, usually as fast as possible, before their next competition. And so a focused, consistent program with limited (notice how I didn't say none) variation is recommended. Variation would be reserved for the maintainance of fitness qualities already achieved in a previous training period, i.e. one jog every 1-2 weeks to maintain aerobic fitness, or for recovery, i.e. 1-2 active recovery sessions outside of rest days to aid recovery and development.

For Athletes, however, the rules change. As is usually the case. Unless an Athlete is a relative novice with limited training history, I would recommend keeping variety to a minimum.

When an athlete comes to me, it is usually because he or she is lacking a certain fitness quality.And so it is my job to improve that fitness quality, usually as quickly as possible, before their next competition . Now, if that athlete has multiple fitness qualities that need improvement, I will create a carefully planned program in which a certain time period will be allocated to developing each fitness quality over a long period, but session to session, or even weekly variation in training will be kept low (notice how I said low instead of nonexistent) with variation being kept for either maintaining a previously developed fitness quality, i.e. doing one running session every 1-2 weeks to maintain aerobic capacity, or for recovery, i.e.including 1-2 low intensity active recovery sessions per week during a high intensity cycle of training. Other than that, each training plan is kept as focused and consistent as possible. The same can be said for training clients whose progress has stagnated, along with a possible increase in intensity.

What are your thoughts on Variety and Consistency in training? 

Let me know in the comments section below. And don't forget to subscribe and like us on faceboom for more interesting information and resources on health and fitness.

Until next time,

Stay Fit,



Supertraining, 6th Edition by Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel C. Siff, 2006

Molecular Bases of Training Adaptation by  V. Coffey and J. Hawley, 2007

Cardiovascular adaptations to Resistance Training by S. Fleck, 1988