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Movement First, Then Strength: Interview with PCCs Beth and Eric Bergmann

Beth Bergmann, PCC Headstand Split
Dragon Door: How did you each start your fitness careers?

Beth Bergmann: I’ve been a dancer my entire life. I started when I was two because my mom thought it was cute. As the youngest of five children—I was 13 years behind my last brother—my mom also probably wanted me out of the house! I was primarily a ballet dancer until I went to school at Julliard where I had more of a contemporary dance focus. After finishing a tour with a dance company at age 23, I decided that I needed a break. Dancing was the all-consuming thing in my life, and I needed a change of pace. I moved in with a friend in Manhattan who was a personal trainer at NY Health and Racquet. I didn't know what I wanted to do other than have a job where I could stay on my feet and interact with people. My roommate told me that I needed to be a personal trainer. So I interviewed at NY Health and Racquet—and the rest is history!

Eric Bergmann: I got into fitness because I played baseball. I basically went into college injured and about halfway though my freshman year season I was so injured that I would have required surgery if I wanted to keep playing. I opted not to go that route and needed somewhere else to place my energies. I figured now was my chance to get into the kind of shape that I always wanted to be in—instead of just looking like a baseball player. So, I stated going to the gym and doing a lot of dumb things! I started getting hurt instead of getting the results I wanted. So, I started studying the art and science of training.

Eventually I picked up a personal training certification and graduated from school. A couple of the guys I had worked with at the gym on campus were now managing gyms. They brought me on board and I became a personal trainer in New York City. I found that there was a lot about personal training that was great, but there was also a lot that was really wrong. So, I attempted to cultivate my own style and skill set with methods that actually worked and would generate the kind of results my clients wanted.

Dragon Door: How did you two first meet the Kavadlo brothers?

Eric Bergmann: We met at the gym, back when Al was a trainer there and I was managing the facility. Beth had just become a personal trainer around the same time that Danny was becoming a personal trainer (at Al's behest). I actually—infamously—tried to talk Danny out of becoming a personal trainer! He had just taken on some very large financial, emotional, and time commitments in his life. It’s notoriously difficult to get started as a trainer, and when I met him I immediately knew he had something really special to offer, I just didn’t think it was the right moment in his life to make the jump. But, if you know anything about Danny, you know he has huge balls, so he decided to just go for it anyway! Very rapidly, he became one of the top trainers in the company and one of the best known trainers in New York. I’m glad Danny didn't take my advice! Al was already a successful trainer in the facility who had talked his brother in coming over, and I foolishly tried to stop him!

Beth Bergmann: When you first become a personal trainer with NY Health and Racquet, there’s a course called Fundamentals which includes everything from learning the seven basic movements, to how to talk to clients and professional behavior. Before the class, you start meeting people and the very first thing Danny said to me was, "Hi, I'm Danny Kavadlo! Want to see a picture of my kid?" And I said, "Hi, yes I do! I want to see a picture of your kid!" He had a picture of Wilson when he was a little baby; it was the sweetest thing ever. It was so personal and friendly. I felt like I knew everything about Danny in five minutes. I could tell he was a great guy and loved his kid more than anything in the world—which is very much who he still is today.

Al Kavadlo and the Bergmanns

Dragon Door: How did you and Eric meet?

Eric Bergmann: I like to say that Beth danced into my life. I was at a corporate meeting and Beth was a newly-minted personal trainer who came dancing into the office in search of something. Everyone stopped and thought, "Who is THAT?" I thought to myself, "That’s my future wife!" I went to great pains to get to know her, and the rest is history. Now we're just an old married couple!

Beth Bergmann: Similar to Danny’s trajectory, after I was a personal trainer, I was promoted to manage my own club—which happened to be one of Eric’s old clubs. I was told that if I needed info about the clients or trainers there that I had to ask Eric. Now that I think about it, our boss might have been trying to get us closer together!

Eric Bergmann: I think it might have been a little bit of a setup. Many people have taken over clubs I've managed in the past and I never called ANY of them!

Dragon Door: How did you two decide to go to the PCC?

Eric Bergmann: Danny and Al had been talking about it forever. We've known Al and Danny for so long… even before Al first started making videos and putting them online. So, we'd been interested in checking out the PCC for a while and it wildly exceeded our expectations! Even though we have about 25 years of combined experience in the business, we learned so much and had an unbelievable time that weekend. I think there's something about the community that Al and Danny, Dragon Door, and the PCC attract—it’s just such a cool group of people. It's a much more welcoming community than we've found in any other kind of coursework or certification we've done.
Beth and Eric Bergmann At PCC

Dragon Door: Are both of you now working as independent trainers, or are you in management, leadership roles at a gym?

Eric Bergmann: At this point, both of us are 100% back to one-on-one training. We both spent years managing gyms, trainers, and experienced everything that goes with it. Even though we had the sense that we were helping more people because we each had a team of trainers working for us, it wasn’t the same as delivering our knowledge directly to individuals. That's really my passion. And while I love writing articles and seeing that people read them, I don’t think I would be satisfied if I wasn’t also working directly with clients.

Dragon Door: Are you working though a facility or with people in their homes?

Beth Bergmann: We're both 100% independent, so we either train clients in their homes, their co-op or condo gyms, or sometimes in fitness studios set up for independent trainers. We also have a little training studio in our apartment so people can come to us. For instance, I have a continued passion for the dance community and several of my friends are still dancing professionally. Many of these dancers come to our home for dinner and often wind up asking for advice for handling the physical stressors and accumulated injuries of the profession. In response, Eric and I set aside some pro bono time every week to help them assess, correct, rehab, pre-hab… whatever it is that they may need. We call it "Dance Repair Shop".
Beth Bergmann Coaching1

Dragon Door: What did you learn at the PCC which you think will be most helpful for your clients?

Eric Bergmann: One of the things the PCC provides (that’s absent in most certifications) are really strong concepts. I think strong concepts are more important than the individual practices. The core concepts, like the techniques of generating tension and alignment, carry over between movements. And the arsenal of progressions really clarifies how to take someone from point a to point b while honoring and respecting that every body is unique. And while the Kavadlo brothers like to have a good time, they're also deeply philosophical and we got to see that come through in their teaching.

Beth Bergmann: During the PCC, I appreciated that Danny and Al really let their personalities shine through. It’s not a performance, it's them. They’re not adopting alter egos for their professional lives. They are very genuine, and I think fitness exploration also has to be genuine—you are in relationship with your skill set. The PCC has options for everyone’s strengths. And on top of it you get a 600-page tome of wonderfulness. If you have questions after the workshop, the answers are in that book, I can guarantee it!

Eric Bergmann: In the fitness industry, a lot is broken with education and the prevalence of dogma. But all that is absent from the PCC. While it’s not structureless it is free from the rigid barriers that can ruin good concepts.
Eric Bergmann PCC One Arm Pull Up

Dragon Door: Other than the dancers you mentioned earlier, who is your typical training demographic?

Eric Bergmann: It’s somewhat eclectic. I think what’s important is that we have a very specific perspective on fitness, movement, and the qualities necessary for progressing. While we primarily work with the general population, dancers—who are relatively young, fit, strong, and mobile—still go through the exact same process as a general population client. An 85 year old woman or a 22 year old athlete still go though the same system, and it often uncovers many of the same problems. I think our philosophy of putting movement first, then strength qualities, and finally performance specifics has really informed how we train people. For professional athletes and others with very specific performance goals, the main differences will be the outcomes, measures, and the discussion of their risk to reward ratios—not the lens through which we view their situation.

Dragon Door: In addition to calisthenics and FMS, are you also training clients with kettlebells?

Eric Bergmann Crazy KettlebellsEric Bergmann: Yes, we have about 800 pounds of kettlebells slowly warping the floor in our home studio right now! I think the client’s capacities and environment always reign supreme—along with logistics. Because our in-home clients often have limited space, and since the cornerstone of our business model is high-end service and customization, we’ve ended up purchasing a lot of kettlebells for our clients to keep at their homes.

That said, I think that if you can construct intelligent, appropriate workouts with just a kettlebell and bodyweight exercises, it really is a complete program for the average person.

Dragon Door: What are some of your favorite moves to use with clients that were covered at the PCC?

Eric Bergmann: I like the squat progressions a lot. For orthopedic, logistical, and even psychological reasons, many people will never put a barbell on their back or do front squats with heavy double kettlebells. The squat progressions from the PCC are incredibly functional and build the fundamental skills that are useful in our daily lives, that reduce the risk of injury, and that enhance performance.

Beth Bergmann: On that note, I love all the push-up progressions. Push-ups are a fabulous exercise you can do anywhere.

When a bar is available, I love to get women doing pull-ups—it's one of my passion projects. It’s magic when a woman does her first pull up. So many things come together with that step. It’s really great to have the pull-up progressions and regressions from the PCC in my training arsenal to help make that happen.

Dragon Door: What's next for your training and business?

Beth Bergmann: We are very excited to be assisting Al and Danny at the next PCC as well as assisting Dr. Kathy Dooley of Catalyst Sport at the next NeuroKinetic Therapy Level I seminar, both in New York City. We launched our Nutrition Coaching program in January and are both currently studying to become Licensed Massage Therapists so we can add hands-on modalities to our practice.

Eric Bergmann: We have also been considering putting a book together. We have both trained people for a long time, and have a broad range of experiences and skills. We’ve slowly refined our philosophy, message, and our craft. It’s unfortunate, but in the fitness industry there are many people pumping out a lot of material that reflects a bit of inexperience and dogmatic thinking. I feel like we are just now—each of us over a decade in—getting to the point where we can offer something back to the industry which has given us so much. So that’s potentially coming in the future.

Dragon Door: Post-PCC, what are you working on in your own training?

Eric Bergmann: The back lever has always fascinated me. About three years ago, I had a conversation with Al. He was saying that the back lever was a posterior chain exercise. I didn’t have the "beginner's mind" at the time and couldn’t really see it. But when we played with the back lever progressions at the PCC and I got some one-on-one instruction I started to really understand how the movement is a fantastic posterior chain exercise.

Beth Bergmann: Because of my obsession with pull-ups, I’m working on the muscle-up. It wasn’t quite there at the PCC, but I would love to work up to a muscle-up! I loved the PCC, and was having so many childhood flashbacks from when I did gymnastics as a kid. Getting back to that kind of child-like play is psychologically helpful, beautiful, and really awesome.
Beth Bergmann Support Press at the PCC

Dragon Door: Since you’re very experienced with the general population, what advice would you have for someone in that demographic who wants to get stated with a personal trainer such as yourselves?

Eric Bergmann: At your first consultation, talk about goal setting together. Create a reasonable goal that’s within the realm of possibility, but that’s also in the deep waters. With that goal in mind and a reasonable time frame, write it down. It needs to be in writing. Writing is transformative; there's something about putting a pen to paper that transforms your mindset. In the near future that goal won't sound as exciting, it’ll sound harder to achieve and more distance than you’d hoped. When your willpower is not as strong as it was on that first day, having it written down on that piece of paper might be the only thing that stands between you deciding to call it a day or forging ahead.

Beth Bergmann: Eric and I expect a lot from our clients. We demand presence and perfection, and will not let anyone get away with doing reps that don't pass the sniff test! Even though we are strict, we also try to ensure our clients have a really great time during their workouts. Eric and I bring a lot of unruly fun and energy to a training session. And while that might not be for everyone, in our experience, we’ve found our clients get better results if they know that their workouts will be brutal but also entertaining. When choosing a trainer, don’t just pick someone randomly. Really think about what type of personality will motivate you but also make you want to keep coming back for more.

Beth Bergmann, PCC Headstand Split thumbnailBeth and Eric Bergmann are independent trainers in New York City, contact them via their website at or follow them on Facebook