Functional Pillar (or core/power center) Conditioning

A strong base of fitness is crucial for sustained practice of individual technique and participation in a skilled, safe manner in competition. Athletic fitness training must be separate from skill training and geared directly to strengthen and prepare your body specifically and efficiently for the desired sports goal.


Functional conditioning is simply strength training movements that have a high carryover to work and sport. The exercises will have a relative timing profile similar to the activity, like a squat has a similar timing profile to jumping. The exercises are specific, mimicking the recruitment of muscles and of joints of the task/sport or ability lacking in an athlete’s body.

The fitness secret for all successful ball players is functional core conditioning.

At every level these players need a strong center of power to be successful on the field or court. Core stability and power are vital to prevent injuries, correct posture. and ensure more efficient and functional (i.e., practical, usable) movement patterns.


Core exercises build bio motor (life movement) skills to improve strength, power, endurance, flexibility, coordination, balance, agility and speed. A proper functional core program trains athletes for common movements and for preventing common injury. The objective is to keep players on the field or court and keep them healthy.

The core and its role in ball sports

The power center or core is the trunk musculature*, which is highly involved in all major movements in virtually all sports. In baseball and softball, the trunk plays a key role in the generation of rotational power, essential for powerful hitting, throwing, and pitching.

The core muscles help control movement of the torso, breathing, and balance. If they aren’t in the best shape, other muscles have to help out, taking more energy away from playing and winning ball.

Core stability

Core stability* is the ability to contract the lower deep ab muscles to help support the trunk in dynamic and static positions.

Core conditioning differs from traditional abdominal training in that it is an integrated and complete approach to train for function and performance versus aesthetics alone. We want to retrain stabilizer muscles* to contract in the right pattern and at the right intensity to meet the high demands ball places on them. 

Functional core conditioning


Every action in virtually every sport and activity requires a complex combination of body parts and muscles working together. To achieve top performance, every body part and the interconnected muscles must be used together in seamless synchronization.

Functional conditioning trains the body as a unit. Each muscle is trained to contribute to functional movement pattern versus to act in isolation. Functional exercises** focus on the contribution the nervous system makes in sports. Each exercise must maximize movement efficiency and performance, thereby reducing the waste of energy and maximizing its transfer from the lower body to the upper body.

Functional training addresses 3-dimensional movement: multi-directional, multi-planar. It is proprioceptive enriched and activity specific for speed and agility.

For example, the #1 baseball and softball injury is to the shoulder after ball release. So we must integrate the shoulder into the entire kinetic chain and train the muscles of opposite glute that stabilize and decelerate muscles of posterior rotator cuff.

The goal is to keep players on the field or keeping you in the best condition for a strong and healthy lifestyle.

*          rectus abdominis (six-pack)

external obliques (turn torso side to side)

internal obliques

transversus abdominis (deep ab muscle)

erector spinae (lower back)

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How to Run an S&C Program To Facilitate Success in Your Sport


Success = opportunity meets preparation

Most youth coaches and volunteer parents know their sports inside out. They run efficient practices, paying attention to form, fun, drills, and competitive opportunities. Where the coaches usually need help is to design and include strength and conditioning (s&c) effectively in their sports programs.

You don’t need a different s&c program for each sport. Almost 95% of all sports deal with movement, and training players to move better enhances their performance and athleticism while reducing risk of injury. When you make better athletes they have the opportunity to be better players.

The s&c program creates a strong base of fitness and is geared to strengthen and prepare players specifically and efficiently for the desired sports goal. It increases motor skills and fitness levels. Essentially s&c extends your athletic program.

You may need to include an s&c expert whose role is to facilitate the coaches to prepare the athletes to succeed on the field.  If you are responsible for your s&c program, following are a few tips.

  1. There are two major parts of your training world that you need to focus on everyday: core and flexibility for best results and more efficient training.
  2. During the training week focus on 5 trainable attributes: speed, power, endurance, strength, and agility (timing and tempo). Always work on improving body mechanics.
  3. Make the program appropriate, safe, and progressive: pay attention developing each player as both an athlete and a person.
  4. Athletes, especially between ages 8-20, have different biological and gender adaptations to training volume and intensity in the development of key muscular and energetic components (physiological energy systems) that will have the greatest impact on their competitive performance. Aerobic fitness does not increase much for boys and girls between ages 8-13, but boys ages 14-16 and girls ages 11-13 show greatest increase in aerobic fitness, reaching max at age 19 (girls 17). The training plan will consider these factors.
  5. Emotional age is important: readiness for a program depends on your player having a desire to participate, a belief that it is worthwhile, maturity to closely follow coaching and instructions, and discipline.
  6. Design a periodized program that varies in intensity and volume throughout the year, with the lowest volume and highest speed in season.


Addressed in point 1. (above) here is an example of a progressive and comprehensive core workout progression. All can be done out on the field or in a gym without equipment. Follow them in this progression for best results, particularly as power is preceded by strength:

  1. Core stabilization


Side bridges and planks


Wall sits

  1. Core strength

Push-ups (can begin against a wall)



  1. Core power (elasticity)

Overhead medicine ball toss

Ice skaters

Cone agility sprints (5-10 reps)

Teach your athletes to climb, crawl, sprint, and jump with moves like those below:


Jumps in place



Box drills (avoid depth jumps)

Jump squat


Band rows

Bear crawl/crab walk

Forward and backward sprint


Squat (king-3 count down, 3 count up)

Jump rope

Have a great season!

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* exercises (as push-ups and jumping jacks) to develop strength and flexibility that are done without special equipment




The point where physical meets emotional/mental strength

A decade ago a nice, buffed trainer in Gold’s Gym approached me and asked if I would consider powerlifting. After I determined he wasn’t hitting on me, my next thought was ‘Huh?’ What is powerlifting?”

Naturally curious and one who doesn’t like being left out, I said ‘yes.’

Those questions and my answer launched a journey that changed my life, body, and perspective on what it means to participate in athletics at a regular-guy level. In high school I was on the track team (4 x 400–no podium finishes to say the least) and was cut from the cheerleading squad, which pretty much comprised my athletic profile to date.


The powerlifts are the squat, bench press, and deadlift. We can all do these core lifts with or without much weight. Done properly, each is a full-body exercise requiring driving power from your lower body through your upper body. The lifts provide absolute structure and discipline in your lifting routine and strengthen nearly every skeletal muscle, including legs, back and upper body.

Powerlifts are the foundation of any good strength and conditioning program. Whether you compete or not, powerlifting sets you up for the ultimate test of tapping into and developing physical, emotional, and mental strength. It also naturally improves your body composition—lean and mean!



Powerlifting is fun, rewarding, and empowering. It increased my confidence and opened the door to the possibility if I approached the lifts with excellent coaching and one step at a time, I can do it. My mind never wandered from that belief, both in lifting and most other areas of my life.

About a decade ago while warming up in the Sports Arena in Disneyworld FL, I knew I had a world record on the line.  I stepped up to my loaded bar I knew it would incorporate every fiber of my being to execute the move. I had prepared my body and emotions to take control and perform. I wanted it. I set the last piece in place, letting my mind take over and allowing my body do what it knew how to do. In a ‘zone’ moment, I pulled up 308 pounds in my deadlift, which I had started only a few months ago at 65 pounds.



The key is to develop a progressive, safe program with strictly perfect form. Find a qualified, credible coach who can train form while educating you in grip style and position; use of sumo vs. conventional stance; and the most commonly used auxiliary exercises. I found a team to train with, which is also a great option.

With expert guidance your progress will be consistent from the start and you will see steady gains. Every little gain will motivate you to keep training. The benefits of powerlifting cross age boundaries, as kids can begin with body weight and most adults can lift at least the bar.


You can do other sports or activities in tandem, as lifting will not require much time. You can dance, run, box, participate in football or baseball, in conjunction with your lifting. Despite some talk that powerlifting can reduce your effectiveness in your sport, know that every professional or competitive athlete in major sports now lifts weights. And the powerlifts are part of those programs.
Powerlifting contributes to your growth and development, while decreasing risk of injury. After I broke some world records in lifting, I decided to tackle the endurance world in triathlon. My physical and mental strength translated to my success as a ranked triathlete with no injuries in over 16 years of racing.

Being strong is just plain fun. The bragging rights for PR’s (personal records) are an added bonus on social media!

Email me with any questions about powerlifting or setting up an effective training program