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Coupling Functional Assessment and Technique, Part 1: The Foundation of Training


By Marc Evans ( – Exclusively for

Since oxygen intake levels remain more or less unchanged with prolonged training (maximal oxygen intake does not increase significantly in trained athletes, but economy does improve) then what’s making the athlete faster? And what makes a triathlete able to maintain a stable percentage of and exercise at high fractions of Vo2max during the course of a triathlon? Research has put forward a number of explanations including; how stable a triathletes cardiovascular and thermal stability systems are as well as, economy of movement.

Torbjorn Sindballe – Photo by Delly Carr

There are elements unique to every individual that determine success in endurance sports. The realization of peak performance – not just for the elite among us – is a progression of maximizing individual physical, biological, psychological and of course, genetic ability.

Too, performance is largely accomplished by becoming technically efficient and mastered by continuous repetition – sometimes years of training and adaptation. Even under the tutelage of a coach more often, technique is largely self-optimized – we are not all the same to be sure, but there are elemental movements (movements apart from actual swimming, cycling and running) to help athletes reach higher levels of performance.

Whether you are an elite, competitive, recreational or a beginner triathlete the evaluation of mobility, flexibility and stability are central starting and re-evaluation points. A Functional Foundation Assessment (FFA) is a method to evaluate an athlete’s competency in range of motion and strength. Corrective exercises are prescribed based upon individual outcomes to achieve normal movement and stability of the feet, knees, hips, torso and head.

Athletes have talent and learning capacities which have need of individualized coaching and evaluation. In particular, in the absence of addressing individual differences (mobility, flexibility and stability) many athletes will plateau at a certain level of performance and not improve to their maximum ability. It is especially important to assess (FFA) individuals new to swimming, cycling, and running – athletes that are adult learners in particular have this need. Many asymmetrical movements are easily corrected by a few weekday dryland sessions of functional mobility, range of motion (flexibility) and stability work for the core (above the knees to below the chest).

Technique training together with mobility and functional strength development set the pathway to better and faster performances. So, while training the right volumes, intensity, rest, nutrition are very important, so too is the coupling of technique, stability and functional movement.

Over time uneven bodily movements create compensations and will frequently result in over use injury and certainly, less than optimal performances. For the beginner, intermediate and recreational triathlete identifying inflexible, immobile and weak body areas early on will go a long way in performance and athletic enjoyment over the years. For the elite, it is often of matter of minor modifications – and interestingly, working on what not to do than what to do.

Training is a process fundamentally intended to limit and defer fatigue when in competition. And as a result by reducing energy usage performance will improve. Individuals differ greatly in technique and mechanical power and efficiency (trying to resist fatigue). So, at its nucleus, training should be a process of employing more efficient technique – and practicing repeatedly techniques to draw out better movements.

Athletes do self-optimize technique to lower oxygen consumption and energy expenditure – but only to the extent of their ability to overcome limitations in mobility, flexibility, stability, biomechanics and of course, genetics. Thus, constructive changes in movements will bring about better economy and lower the energy necessary to maintain a given level of effort – and prolong this pace over longer time.

Coaching when coupled with FFA smoothes the progress of development towards efficiency. Coaching only technique, strength and or movement absent evaluating specific and distinctive characteristic limits growth and to be sure, do not attend to individual differences. Coupling functional movement analysis with individualized technique coaching is a more effective method of coaching that is more likely to yield positive results and performance gain for the athlete.


Marc Evans is the first and former USA Triathlon head coach for the inaugural Olympic distance world championships and the coach of two-time IRONMAN champion Scott Tinley. An author, Marc has three published books on endurance sport training and is the patent holder for the best selling SPEEDO Contour and Swim-Foil training paddles. The American Medical Association presented Marc the “Award of Excellence” for his pioneering work in triathlon.

In 2009, he opened a full service coaching studio near Lake Tahoe, Nevada and works with all levels of athletes from beginner to professional (athletes and coaches – both coached and self-trained) primarily 1-on-1 and small groups.

Triathlon groups, clubs, team and triathlon stores should contact Marc for his innovative TECHform Coaching training camps and clinics that can be held in your city.

Roadway safety is an important issue and Marc founded Honor the Stop ( where people take a pledge to, “Honor those who have lost their lives or have become seriously injured – and agree to obey all traffic laws”.

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