Monday, August 04, 2008

Functional Strength Coach DVD Set - Mike Boyle

I've had a couple of strength and conditioning video series to review for a while, now. This one I only got very recently, though. And frankly, I'm glad I put off reviewing the others until I'd first seen this one.


Because I think this one sets the standard for content - though not so much for production.....

Basically, this ten DVD set represents a little over twelve hours of seminar footage from a couple of years ago and covers the full spectrum of Mike's thinking in terms of strength and conditioning.

Mike has become somewhat famous in internet circles for his writings on T-Nation but for some, his influence goes back further. For my own part, I read (and largely didn't understand) his book 'Functional Training for Sports' a few years ago. Fortunately, I've matured a lot since then.

The ten DVD set opens up with Boyle's interpretation of the Functional Movement Screen popularised by Gray Cook. He explains the movements that go into the screen ad makes a good fist of explaining the key areas of concern with the screen. As with all the DVDs, this isn't just a how-to, but also a why-to volume.

The next three DVDs are titled 'Core Training Concepts', 'Core Training' and 'Rotary Training'. These three volumes cover the training of the hip, abdominal and lower back. Mike has some fantastic insights as well as some that you might disagree with. All of his insights are well thought through and worth considering. I, myself, am currently reconsidering some of my training (and that of my clients) based on these volumes - especially in the area of rotary training.

Volume five is on foam rollers. This one has single-handedly changed my views on rolling. I have had rollers for a long time and have tried laboriously to implement them into my training. No matter how I tried, though, I never really knew how to implement them correctly. Mike managed to explain the whys of foam rolling (and tennis balls) in a way I understood, rather than just telling me what to do. Already, this has made a difference to me. When I really have it sorted out, it will also make a big difference to those I train.

Volume eight is titled 'How to Design Functional Strength Programs' and is just that. Boyle lists the essential elements of his programs and explains how he puts them together for group and individual settings. He shows a number of templates and explains the virtues of the system.

I believe volume nine (Single Leg Training and Eccentric Training Hands-On) should have probably come before volume eight. This volume explains Mike's penchant for single leg training and a number of changes he's made recently with tempo prescriptions. I would have liked to have seen it discussed before the previous volume so as to give a better understanding of where it fits into the program. The volume has some good exercises and illustrates Mike's thought process when it comes to exercise development (yes- he develops them as much as he uses others') and selection.

The last volume is as clear and concise lecture on conditioning as I've seen. Boyle explains his ideas on interval training and how it is incorporated into the program well, but it left me a wanting a little for some specific examples.

So, what happened to volumes six and seven? I'm glad you asked. These volumes were on 'Functional Isometric Training' and were presented by Jeff Oliver and Brijesh Patel. Volume six is a presentation on the use of isometrics and the second a hands-on session for the program. Unfortunately, these videos would probably have been better left out of the set. The presentation was disjointed and under-researched. In fact, the presentation seemed to revolve around the work of Jay Schroeder and it was plain (and admitted) that the knoledge of his program is poor.

That's not to say functional isometrics are a waste. Far from it. I think they are an important part of where the strength and conditioning world is going. However, I think two guys as smart as Jeff and Brijesh could have put together a better presentation with a lot less of the uncertainty, self-deprecation and unresearched material. It's a shame because I think they're onto something.

That brings me to the criticisms of the set. Not that I have anything against the content. My problems are purely to do with production. I know that the seminar "feel" is a nice thing to have in a video presentation, but I feel some editing wouldn't have gone astray in this series. Repeatedly, there are discussions about the amount of tape remaining on the camera. There are discussions about timing of sessions that are unimportant to the viewer. Little technical presentation issues could have also been cleared in post-production.

That's not to detract from the overall product, though. Boyle has been around a long, long time and this series gives you the benefit of those decades of experience. I like the way Mike admits he's been wrong in the past and probably will be again. To me, that alone tells me the information on this set is light years beyond the guys who believe they know it all.

Edit: I'm not sure Functional Strength Coach is available anymore. But you get the updated FSC 3.0 here

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