Dec 12, 2012

Client Spotlight: Phil Ficsor, Professional Concert Violinist

By: Peter Blumert, MA, CSCS, USAW

For many of you, including myself, this may be the first time you have ever seen a musician highlighted in the strength and performance arena. Musicians are not classically known for their athletic prowess as it has long been thought to be detrimental to their skill set.

According to Phil, “Musicians don't agree on much, but one thing they almost all agree on is that weight training is bad for the delicate technique that is required to play a stringed instrument. The most ambitious musicians I've found who espouse the value of physical conditioning over-emphasize stretching and call themselves small muscle athletes".

In 2009, Phil started training one day a week at Prevail. His initial goal was to reduce the injury potential during his weekly soccer games and the occasional winter ski trip, but his real passion in life is the violin. He is a classically trained professional concert violinist who loves to perform and teach others how to succeed in the concert platform.

Phil and I started training this past spring with the purpose of continuing to build his foundation and to increase his strength. After training together for a month, I decided that he needed to focus specifically on a goal that would really challenge him. After some deliberation, we came up with the goal of him deadlifting 150 percent of his bodyweight (approximately 275 pounds) with a deadline of three months to attain it.

For the next 12 weeks, we met once or twice a week, and I gave him three or four other workouts to do on his own throughout the week. Although he was unable to get in every workout (work, family, etc), Phil did the best he could to do each repetition of every set to the best technical profiency and effort possible. 

When we first started this project, Phil did not even have the mobility to obtain a neutral spine position to pull a weighted barbell off the floor. We worked hard at strengthening the top portion of his pull along with other areas of his body, while he religiously worked on his mobility between sets, post-workout, and during his down time. I worked with him on how to properly prepare, both physically and mentally, to pick up a weight that he never thought he would be capable of doing. He learned how sleep, nutrition, soft tissue work, flexibility, and other restoration activities can make a huge difference in how he recovers from his workouts. During the last couple weeks leading up to the deadline we had chosen, we backed off on the volume and intensity to allow his body a little extra recovery.

At a bodyweight of 182 pounds, Phil deadlifted 315 pounds, which was 173 percent of his bodyweight! In the video below, you can watch him lift 300 pounds for the first time in his life.


Although the lift was not technically perfect, it was a huge accomplishment. Every weight he attempted that day, he succeeded (which is a great lesson for all beginners). He learned a lot that day and caught a glimpse of what his body is capable of doing with proper guidance, direction, and a strong will to succeed. Phil’s determination, commitment, desire, and intensity are what made him successful, not only is this endeavor, but in many other areas of his life.

When I asked Phil about what his experience has been like at Prevail thus far and what he most enjoys about training here, his response was:

“When I first started, I was honestly a bit confused as some of the things I was being instructed to do didn't seem very hard, but somehow were! I've learned that there is a tremendous amount of technique involved in training, whether it‘s with external weights or objects, or just your bodyweight. As in most other things, there is a right and wrong way to execute tasks. In weight training, if something is done incorrectly, there is a real risk of injury or bodily harm. 

“I realized that my initial goals were not nearly ambitious enough to describe the reality of where I am now physically as I can lift more than I ever dreamed I could. I've improved dramatically as a soccer player because I've corrected many of the issues I had, such as asymmetries and a lack of understanding in regards to how the body works efficiently and most productively. I've learned a ton and it has benefitted both my sport and my musical career. Strength training has actually improved my playing ability on the violin, as I am now more, not less, flexible with an increased muscle resilience and endurance. 

“I have a great deal of respect for the Prevail trainers because of the knowledge and passion they bring to each and every training session. It might sound like a cliché, but at Prevail you are more than a number, you're a valued friend. It shows in the quality of training that they provide. 

“One last quick thought that I love to tell everyone: endorphins are the last legal drug and they are a great side effect to experience following a workout. They give me a sense of accomplishment and relaxation, which helps me be a better dad and husband.”

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