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Learn How to Read Fitness and Health Research

I must be the last person alive who should be writing about training or nutrition research, but because of that, I’ve been collecting resources. My daily work involves typesetting, editing, coding or graphics (actually, it’s mostly email), so the studying I do is of software tech manuals. That makes my excuse for science inadequacy better than yours.

I never trained my brain to stay focused when reading about research. This works for me, but for those of you who work with clients and patients on health, fitness and strength issues, you don’t really get that freedom. These days, if you don’t stay aware of the latest science and can’t explain to your clients why you’re using the exercises you choose or how the news media got the latest research wrong, your clients are likely to trust you less. Unless your personality is the most contagious one in the gym, if you continue to let your eyes glaze over when science comes into play, as a personal trainer or strength coach you’re probably going to need a new retirement plan.

Jonathan Fass is working on a research lecture for us on the movementlectures.com site, and I’m sure the topic will get a mention often in future lectures. In the meantime I have a couple of suggestions for you… even as I sit here at my desk practicing audio editing techniques with no science involved at the level I work with the waveforms.

From PubMed: How to Read Health News:

Your first concern should be the research behind the news article. If an article touts a treatment or some aspect of your lifestyle that is supposed to prevent or cause a disease, but doesn’t give any information about the scientific research behind it, then treat it with a lot of caution. The same applies to research that has yet to be published.

From Bret Contreras: Evidence-Based Coaching:

Some types of articles are better than others. A meta-analysis showing strong results or a review paper citing multiple studies leading to the same conclusion would hold a lot of weight. In contrast, an in vitro study or an animal study might not. A specific study that carefully examines the topic at hand is ideal, but many times specific studies are lacking, causing us to extrapolate or piece information together, which isn’t quite as sound of a practice.

From Tim Huntley’s Scientific Research 101: Bad Science, Common Problems in Research Articles:

This problem typically occurs when the results of a study from a specific sample are extrapolated to what is believed to be a similar group.  An example would be research where a new cholesterol drug was tested on females aged 30-50.  Can we, or should we make assumptions on what the drug might do for males or 65 year old women?  Absolutely not.

From Mark Young’s How to Read Fitness Research:


Here’s a tutorial on how to get full text articles for PubMed citations, both free and for a fee.


Bret explains here:


And, of course, like me you can stick your head in the sand, because as Dr. Ferric Fang discovered, researchers doctor papers. Whatever you do, ignore mainstream headlines and double-check the wording. Oh, and be sure to sort out the quality from the flawed studies.

Late addition—Chris Kresser: How to Read and Understand Scientific Research



Which movementlectures.com audio lectures do I like?

Boris Bachmann, the guy who recorded the squat techniques lecture (he’s also the Squat Rx guy from YouTube), asked me the other day, “Are there some sleeper lectures you think are absolutely fantastic that might have gotten overlooked so far? Let me know and I will do some impulse buying.”

Boy that’s a real hard one because for me, I’m more into the talking than the learning, if you know what I mean. So while trainers might really go for one and coaches might really go for another and therapists yet another, I get a kick out of just listening to the talking… Dan John’s (goal setting), Dick Tyler’s (storytelling), Chip Conrad’s Sweet Chant and Lou Shuler’s Hero’s Journey. People like me who like bio stories will enjoy listening to Ric Drasin tell his tale.

Mike Mahler’s discussion of hormone optimization was fabulous (hold on to your wallet — I ended up buying four new supplements to try!), as was Jerry Brainum’s on supplements and Robert Yang’s on gluten. Brooks Kubik’s talk is on training for senior lifters, learning how to plan recovery, real good for some of this crowd. Tom Furman’s was excellent, especially as we get a little older and lose mobility.

Charlie Weingroff’s is a real big learning circle, very nice, and Evan Osar kicks in there on the human movement side as well. I really enjoyed Robb Rogers’ and also Tim Anderson’s; those were both a little different and off the mainstream.. stuff you probably haven’t heard before.

Oh, jeez, I can’t believe Boris got me doing this.

Anybody with trigger point curiosity, Perry Nickelston’s is super; there are a couple lectures on back pain (Eric Beard and Sam Visnic, and Eric also has one on shoulders), and one by Tom Patrick about his journey through back pain and back to golf.

Locked up t-spine? Sue Falsone is her usual wonderful self. Foot pain? Ron Jones has you covered. Wondering if all this fascia science is real, or important? Paul Ingraham dives into that one.

Want to learn something unexpected? Stacy Barrows and Martha Peterson. Need a Gray Cook fix? Self-limiting exercise, plus a discussion with Craig Liebenson and one with Joe Heiler. Lee Burton’s work with the core is unmatched, as is Brett Jones on corrective exercise and strength… short but complete overviews there, then you’d just get to work, right?

Brian Bott works with football players, Brijesh Patel with college athletes. Dave Whitley teaches breathing drills, Jim Schmitz has been coaching O lifting since the ’60s. Chiropractic literally saved Keith Wassung’s life — Keith Norris, Skyler Tanner and Mark Alexander are physical culture slash paleo crusaders; Mark Snow works group and bootcamp trainees using the FMS, and Pat Rigsby knows the business side of bootcamps like nobody else.

Michael Boyle’s talk on fat loss — well, Mike’s just great at everything, really — and Mike Roussell talks fat loss like a lean guy, too.

The Nicks — Winkelman and Tumminello– are superb coaches and know how to teach (the Winkelman talk is pretty cutting-edge, coaches should check that out), ditto Vince McConnell, who talks about privately coaching athletes in season in their sports. Zach EvenEsh is an extremely successful high school athlete coach, and in his lecture he tells how he trains them.

Galina Denzel is a specialist in training pregnant women, and tell us not only how the body changes during pregnancy, but how to train a woman to get her ready for delivery and baby rearing. If you train women, or if you’re pregnant, this one’s a must.

Oh! And there’s this Boris Bachmann guy who really knows squat.

Here’s your link to the Movementlectures.com Full Lecture Listing.


Charlie Weingroff’s Training=Rehab, Rehab=Training workshop video

Had a fun conversation with Charlie Weingroff the other day in which we decided to partner up to release his popular 12-hour Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training DVD set in digital format. It’s ready today: Charlie Weingroff’s Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training downloadable video set, $20 per disk.

From disk one, Charlie discusses Gray Cook’s joint by joint approach to training, made popular by Michael Boyle


From disk two, Charlie talks about his definition of the core, and covers a bit about how the diaphragm works.


From disk three, Charlie talks of how little we know about how pain influences motor control.


From disk four,  Charlie demonstrates proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching — PNF stretching for hamstrings.


From disk five, Charlie explains Professor Vladimir Janda’s famous crossed syndromes, what they are, where they come from and what attention we need to give them.


Also from disk five, here’s a look at upper body rolling patterns.


From disk six,  Charlie demonstrates RNT used for a faulty deep squat with a Gray Cook band.


Charlie Weingroff’s Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training downloadable video set, $20 per disk.

Breathing Drills

I worked on Dave Whitley’s breathing practice lecture again today, and was reminded of how badly I’d been breathing for the past 30 years. You don’t really think of it until someone teaches you — and maybe you’re breathing fine, but unless you know enough to feel the difference between chest and belly breathing, you don’t know for sure. When I first started studying this, I didn’t even know air was supposed to get deep in the belly; I thought air went into the chest.

The first clue, and it was a big one, was a Feldenkrais breathing lesson, in which we were taught to seesaw the air from the chest to the belly, alternating between breaths, and then to direct the air to different areas. Huh! That was interesting.

A few months later, I saw Dave Whitley and Geoff Neupert do a YouTube demonstration of crocodile breathing, and started practicing that.

It didn’t take long to feel like I got it, but then, a couple of years ago, Charlie Weingroff said he could see my breathing in the chest and belly, but there was nothing going on in the middle. I had no clue what he meant, and even less how to fix it. A year went by, and along comes Kelly Stoll, a Rolfer, who also noticed the missing link between top and bottom. She grabbed the fascia just under my ribcage, pulled up — way up — and told me to breathe air into the pulls, repeating the process a half dozen times to traverse my torso.

The next day, I noticed the space just under my ribcage moving in and out smoothly, the place that had been still before. That was the day I discovered a nagging mid-back pain I’d had for years was… gone.

It isn’t possible to put the feeling of that discovery into words, not for me anyway. But I’ll tell you one thing: I want you to learn this for yourself.

Here’s Dave’s breathing drills lecture: Fundamental Breathing Drills.

Downloadable Audio Lectures for Exercise and Rehabilitation Professionals & Fitness Enthusiasts

The movementlectures.com site launch last week went super smooth and we didn’t crash the server, not even once! Nearly a year in the making, we now have 45 lectures available for immediate download, ranging from exercise technique to physical rehab, from physical culture to goal setting — there’s something for everyone, and inexpensively, with instant access. There are another 17 lectures nearly ready for publication, and a dozen recorders jetting around the country collecting new material. Which of these is your new favorite lecture?

Boris Bachmann: Squat Talk | Brett Jones: Corrective Exercise Essentials | Brett Jones: Key Concepts in Corrective Exercise | Brett Jones: Strength for Success | Brian Bott: Building a Bulletproof Program | Brian Bott: Training the Trenches, Football | Brijesh Patel: It’s Not All About the Sets and Reps | Brooks Kubik: Strength Training for Older Adults | Charlie Weingroff: Trainable Human System | Chip Conrad: Why On Earth? Excerpts from Our Sweet Chant of Frantic Power | Craig Liebensen and Gray Cook: Dialogue on Function | Dan John: Intervention

Dan John: Goal Setting, Second Millennium, Plus a Decade | Eric Beard: Anatomy of Shoulder Impingement and Beyond | Eric Beard: Understanding Lower Back Pain: Functional Anatomy Interventions and Prevention | Evan Osar: Strategies and Techniques to Improve Human Movement | Gray Cook: Applying the Functional Movement Screen Model | Gray Cook: Self-Limiting Exercise | Jerry Brainum: Supplements: Those that Work vs Those that Don’t | Jim Schmitz: Olympic Style Weightlifting for Strength, Health, Physique, Fitness and Sport

Joe Heiler and Gray Cook: Meaningful Impairments | Keith Norris, Skyler Tanner and Mark Alexander: Paleo Discussion | Keith Wassung: Introduction to Chiropractic | Lee Burton: Core Testing and Assessment | Lou Schuler: Hero’s Journey into Fitness | Mark Snow: Using the FMS in a Group or Bootcamp Setting | Martha Peterson: Relieving Chronic Muscle Pain With Somatic Education | Michael Boyle: Fat Loss Secrets | Mike Mahler: Importance of Optimizing Hormones Naturally | Mike Roussell: 21 Ways to Lose More Weight

Nick Tumminello: Practical Program Design | Nick Winkelman: Coaching Science: Theory into Practice | Pat Rigsby: Boot Camp Financials | Paul Ingraham: Fascia Science: Does it Even Matter? | Perry Nickelston: Triggerpoints for Pain | Ric Drasin: The Golden Years | Robb Rogers: Functional Training vs Performance Training | Robert Yang: Nothing Wholesome in Eating Whole Grains | Ron Jones: Health from the Ground Up: A Practical Guide to Understanding Feet, Ankles and Shoes

Stacy Barrows: Foam Roller Methods for Optimal Posture and Movement Organization | Sue Falsone: Thoracic Spine: The Missing Link to Core Stability | Tim Anderson: Miracle of Crawling | Tom Furman: Ability to Move | Vince McConnell: Role of a Personal Strength Conditioning Coach | Zach EvenEsh: Training and Development of the High School Athlete

Gray Cook Radio, Recent Updates

Click on the episode link to listen here
Right or command click to save to your computer

Episode Twenty-Five:
Stability training has been a popular training method in recent years, but are we thinking about it correctly? Is motor control a better concept?

Episode Twenty-Four:
The benefits of barefoot training are many, but some of the results are conflicting. Why train barefoot—and when is it best not to?

Episode Twenty-Three:
What does Gray mean when he says, “If you can’t touch your toes, don’t deadlift”?

Episode Twenty-Two:
What do you do when someone can’t perform a test due to a physical limitation?

Episode Twenty-One:
Here Gray describes the “Three Rs” concept of fitness and rehabilitation

Episode Twenty:
Let’s see what Gray has to say about exercise and chronic pain

Functional Movement Improv

by Gray Cook

Human movement is a complex thing. The many systems of the body that assist us in growing, developing and becoming movement-learning machines are a literal miracle by no stretch of the term. Understanding human behavior will never be an exact science whether we look at emotional, social, group dynamic, or human behavior as it relates to movement patterns.

The book I wrote on movement titled Movement is 408 pages, and that’s intimidating. My point with such in-depth work was not to intimidate readers or scare people out of the movement professions. It was to make them consider everything that goes into movement-learning function and dysfunction, and then de-complicate the process with a systematic checklist approach to common movement behaviors and tendencies.

In a previous article on function, I mentioned a new book introduced to me by Mike Boyle called The Checklist Manifesto. This book has a consistent and parallel theme to the other books Why We Make Mistakes and Blunder. It talks about how the more complex a human endeavor becomes and the more technical and skillful a job becomes, the more it’s necessary to rely on a systematic checklist approach for structure and consistency.

I spent the first part of the Movement book talking about the complexity of the human movement learning system and going over some motor learning principles as well as musculoskeletal limitations. But my point, by the time you get to the middle of the book, was to distill these rules and principles down to a movement-based checklist that allows the user to take immediate and consistent action following systems and principles that promote movement change.

In a way, you could say I got real complex in my own paranoid attempt not to leave anything out. In contrast, the functional movement systems should be simple, effective and inexpensive to use so a majority of users can benefit. It can be an effective part of physical education, personal fitness, strength conditioning and rehabilitation in the future.

Since I wrote Movement, it has been my mission to make sure my lectures show a different side of functional movement systems. Where the book seems very in-depth and technical, I want my lectures to demonstrate the logic and consistency of following a system when we develop exercise programs or try to change or improve the way people move.

As I’ve said before, the purpose of the movement screen is not to legislate or enforce movement perfection. It is to make us all agree that there must be a tipping point, a point of minimal functional competency. Anything below this level will probably require a different technology than simple conditioning if movement is to improve.

Therefore, I went on a journey and shared my idea with Lee Burton, my business partner, and Chris Poirier of Perform Better, the key sponsor for the majority of our Functional Movement Screen workshops. We devised the idea of a pre-conference symposium at the three Perform Better summits in 2011—Rhode Island, Chicago and Long Beach.

In a nutshell, this was our idea: We wanted to do a quick overview of the system for people who were both certified in the movement screen or just learning about it, and then pull people from the audience and have them screened right there. From this, we took their data and put these on a score sheet. We then projected each score sheet onto the screen for everyone to see, and then we discussed programing for the individual while considering their movement screen alongside the other information they provided. For those who were unable to attend the events, we turned the cameras on… and did not turn them off. We knew we would have some great spontaneous examples, and we captured the whole thing.

The reason I call this Functional Movement Improv is because we felt like an improvisational comedian who takes a topic and immediately spins it into a funny skit. We attempted to create a training program for an individual from a screen and a few questions. This was ambitious to say the least, because we were not creating programs for just any client or athlete. We were challenging the current programs of fitness, performance and rehabilitation professionals. To put it a different way, we were programming the pros. Our secret weapon: The movement screen.

Each time someone from our audience came to the stage, the new program was constructed following a movement-based checklist. The rules of movement are simple and easy to follow, but cannot be overlooked. Each time we did this, the people onstage learned they should be doing something they currently were not doing. They also learned they should not be doing something they currently were doing.

Our point in the drill was if we can improve the programming of exercise professionals with a 10-minute movement profile, imagine what you can do for your clients, athletes and patients with the extra information.

Assisting me at each Summit were some of our functional movement screening instructors, along with our functional movement staff. On the last two events including the Summit in Long Beach, I had my long-term co-pilot, Brett Jones, helping me.

Certainly without exception, every person who was screened who then came onstage to have the screen exposed to the world learned something they did not already know about movement, and discovered something to add or subtract from their exercise programs.

The attendees for this Summit were some of the best of the best trainers, strength coaches and rehabilitation professionals I’ve met. They had done their homework and knew their stuff. They were also a surprisingly fit group of people who not only taught and learned training, but lived it as well.

My source of pride here is that our little system introduced these people to holes, inconsistencies and insights into their own programming. The point of the drill was not to demonstrate that I’m a good exercise programmer, because I didn’t do anything that wasn’t already exposed as simple movement logic in the Movement book. I followed my own 10 principles and basically questioned them about movement patterns they were or were not doing in their exercise programming.

When the movement screen showed us a dysfunction, we questioned any conditioning exercise pushing against that dysfunction. When the movement screen showed the need for a correction, we introduced corrective strategy. If the movement screen did not find dysfunction in a pattern, we didn’t find a problem with conditioning that pattern.

In a very improvisational open format, we turned exercise program design into a systematic process—not simply based on a person’s goals, available equipment or my background or preference of exercise. We turned it into a process that started with the individual’s own unique signature or thumbprint of movement.

People learn faster when we figure out the way they like to learn. Some are introverts. Some are extroverts. Some want to learn in auditory format. Some are kinesthetic learners. Some need to read, practice and then read again.

If we know the way someone learns, we can design learning systems that address their needs in a more efficient manner. Taking a movement profile does the same thing for physical movement.

Watch the following excerpts from this four-hour presentation where we built a case for movement screening, demonstrated how efficient the model can be, and then closed the day by revisiting the principles that allowed us, all from different exercise and rehabilitation backgrounds, to find common ground in a movement profile.

I hope you enjoy! ~Gray Cook





Click here to review the details of the 4-disc DVD set, or place an order.

Gray Cook: Applying the FMS Model to Real Life Examples DVD Set

4-disc DVD set, a joint project from Movement Education Group and Functional Movement Systems

This live workshop, filmed in HD video using four cameras, took place during Perform Better’s Long Beach pre-conference workshop, August 2011, and features Gray Cook assisted by Brett Jones. Their most recent DVDs, Kalos Sthenos, Dynami and Club Swinging Essentials, covered how to do specific exercises right. This one flips that idea and instead covers how to pick the right exercises. It’s a comprehensive 4-disc Applying the FMS Model DVD set that will fill in the blanks and answer your questions about using the Functional Movement Screen when working with your clients, athletes and patients. Although different people have a variety of programming needs, we all require a baseline movement map to enhance safety and maximize results, and this workshop lays down that foundation.


A properly executed movement screen provides a unique perspective, and in this workshop Gray shows us how to use the basic technology as a tool to develop programming unique to each individual. But it’s much more than a movement screen discussion, because what Gray is best at is seeing how people move, how we learn to move, and how we re-learn movement. He’s gifted at explaining what most of us don’t even see, and you’ll find yourself pausing the video over and over to stop and ponder concepts that he makes sound obvious, but that you’ve never considered.


Only about a third of the room had been through the Functional Movement Screen workshop. You don’t need to be FMS certified or even use the screens to benefit from this material. Certainly people who use the screens will get more practical use from the workshop, but Gray’s off-the-cuff pearls and insights? Over and over I found myself stopping to think through these simple-sounding ideas.

I was at the live event, listened to the audio file, edited the text file and worked through the video seven or eight times, and each time I discovered something new, something I missed the other times or that had a deeper meaning as I got more familiar with the ideas. For many trainers, strength coaches and medical professionals, this material could be the key to how you work with clients patients and athletes in the years to come.

The workshop covers the age spectrum of fitness clients, post-rehab clients and athletes of all levels. With tremendous insight and enthusiasm, Gray discusses the logic of movement that all of us share. And because this movement logic is common to all of us, you’ll be able to apply this new material in your work the very next day.


4-disc DVD set—nearly 4 hours, plus bonus material
Filmed live at a Perform Better Summit Workshop

Disk One
Standard Operating Procedures
Movement Matters
Squat Discussion
Stabilization and Repatterning
Our Movement History

Disk Two
Functional Movement Screen Review
Scoring the Screens
Filters and Key Points
Live Screens
Scoring Criteria
Programming the Results

Disk Three
Screen Results Analysis
Order of Screen Priority
Hip Hinge and Deadlift Strategies
Movement Motor Learning
Movement Principles
Self-Limiting Exercise

Disk Four
Extra corrective strategies footage
Full lecture in MP3 audio format for listening in your car or on your portable device
A 61-page typeset transcript of the lecture
Movement Principles excerpt from the Movement book
FMS scoring criteria and verbal instructions
Presentation slides PDF
Video clips from Gray’s Powerpoint presentation
Self-limiting activities chart


you can order via this link.

Pearl/Draper Transcript, a Mandy Trept Project

Dave and I went to Oregon to visit Bill and Judy Pearl in the fall of 2005, and recorded a conversation between Dave and Bill that I made into a booklet to include with the Pearl/Draper Bash 2005 Seminar DVD. Today I formatted the transcript for pdf and kindle, added some of my favorite images of the guys, and uploaded it for sale as a benefit for our Mandy Trept fund.

In either format, this 20-page pdf (13,000 words) sells for $3.49. 100% of the proceeds will be deposited into our fund to help out with Mandy’s rent for a couple of months and the family travel costs while she’s in the Bakersfield trauma center.

It’s a donation, but I think you’re going to get a kick out of the conversation, too. I sure did.

Here are the links:

Via pdf from davedraper.com

Via Amazon Kindle

Here’s the Paypal link to make a direct deposit of any amount. We’ll close this in a week and mail the check next Tuesday.

Gray Cook’s Movement in Paperback

Published as a hardcover book in 2010, Gray Cook’s Movement: Functional Movement Systems, Screening, Assessment & Corrective Strategies is now available in softcover, $49.95. The books shipped from the printer Monday and will be in stock Friday.

Gray Cook's new book
Movement: Functional Movement Systems
Screening, Assessments & Corrective Strategies

by Gray Cook
with Lee Burton, Kyle Kiesel, Greg Rose & Milo F. Bryant

I can say with confidence: Anyone who trains, coaches or treats individuals or teams will find value in this text.

Chapter 1—Introduction to Screening and Assessment
This introductory chapter builds the foundation you’ll need to fully understand the purpose of screening movement. You’ll learn the concept of movement patterns and how to recognize these patterns in action, as well as the history and primary goals of movement screening.

Chapter 2—Anatomical Science versus Functional Science

The next 16 pages expand on the differences between authentic movement and scientific anatomical function. The functional systems of muscles, joints and ligaments are covered, as are the fascial matrix, breathing and the neuromuscular network. Understanding movement deficiency and dysfunction and how these develop will illuminate your work, and clarify your explanations to your athletes, clients and patients.

Chapter 3—Understanding Movement
In Chapter 3, you’ll gain an appreciation of the natural laws of basic movement before specific, with an overview of how to use screening, testing and assessment to classify movement proficiency or deficiency. You’ll also get a summary of the differences between the two systems, the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA).

Chapter 4—Movement Screening
Where in your intake process should you screen? Can you screen an injured client or athlete? This section will help you place movement screening in your existing business model, or it will show you where your program structure might be improved.

Chapter 5—Functional Movement Systems and Movement Patterns
This summary explains the differences between the two systems, the FMS for fitness professionals and strength coaches, and the SFMA for medical professionals. You’ll get a brief look at the systems, and finish with an appreciation of primitive and higher-level movement patterns.

Chapter 6—Functional Movement Screen Descriptions
The chapter used to cover the FMS will teach you the seven basic screens in detail, including where to stand, what to watch for during the movements and how to plan your modifications. You’ll get a description of each screen, the purpose of each, tips for testing, implications and photographs showing how to score each test.

Chapter 7—SFMA Introduction and Top-Tier Tests
The top-tier assessments of the SFMA are covered in these 26 pages, which contain a discussion of the overlying considerations of functional versus dysfunctional and painful versus non-painful, the overriding criteria of the SFMA system. The seven elements of the top-tier will direct you to the breakout tests found in Chapter 8.

Chapter 8—SFMA Assessment Breakout Descriptions and Flowcharts
Taking 58 pages and 66 photographs to cover the SFMA breakouts will serve to remind medical professionals of the individual assessments, and at the same time make fitness trainers and strength coaches aware of the tests used by professionals to whom they refer clients and athletes. The rationale for each of the breakout regions will pull the process together for you as it simplifies the overall approach.

Chapter 9—Analyzing the Movements in Screens and Assessments
Chapter 9 teaches how to analyze the various test results. Using the tests of the Functional Movement Screen as the base, you’ll learn what mistakes most beginners make in screening, how to distinguish between stability and mobility problems and how to determine asymmetries. Here you’ll get your first introduction to reverse patterning (RP) and reactive neuromuscular training (RNT), two of the primary corrective tools of the Functional Movement Systems arsenal.

Chapter 10—Understanding Corrective Strategies
This begins the wrap-up: What do you do with the resulting screen and assessment information? The 20 pages of Chapter 10 comprise the performance pyramid and how to use it to form your corrective strategies. Understanding the differences between correct and corrective exercises, between challenging versus difficult, and having a selection of self-limiting exercises in your exercise menu will give you confidence as you assign and program exercises.

Chapter 11—Developing Corrective Strategies
Now that you’ve discovered dysfunctional patterns in your clients, athletes and patients, the next section will guide you in the corrective decisions that make up the three primary categories of mobility, stability and movement pattern retraining. You’ll get comparisons of conditioning and corrective exercise, movement prep and movement correction, skill training and corrective prioritization, and understand when each is appropriate.

Chapter 12—Building the Corrective Framework
This chapter provides a checklist for your corrective decisions: pain, purpose, posture, position, pattern and plan. Even though every person’s movement is unique, without this framework, your corrective path will not be as clear as it could be. You’ll also become familiar with the basic structure involving special considerations and populations that may make up part of your client or patient base.

Chapter 13—Movement Pattern Corrections
Chapter 13 builds on your knowledge of basic mobility and stability corrections and movement pattern retraining. Using passive, active and assistive techniques, you’ll be able to help your clients, athletes and patients recover lost mobility. Understanding stability and motor control, transitional postures and using facilitation techniques such as reactive neuromuscular training will give you the tools to challenge that new mobility. You’ll also become proficient at rolling after practicing the material in this rich chapter.

Chapter 14—Advanced Corrective Strategies
Finally, in the 24 remarkable pages of Chapter 14, you’ll learn how to make corrective exercise an experience. This is how corrective exercise actually works in the human body, and the thorough discussion found in this chapter will teach you how to create this for your clientele. Using PNF, RNT, reverse patterning, conscious loading, resisted and self-limiting exercises, you’ll grasp the concept of the manageable mistake zone, and you’ll be able to use these ideas and techniques to stand out in your crowded professional field.

Chapter 15—In Conclusion
This wrap-up section pulls the material together for one last review of where the industry is now, and where it’s heading. When you finish this section, you’ll have a complete understanding of the 10 principles of the Functional Movement System. These principles will guide you in learning and training authentic movement.


  • Michael Boyle: Joint-by-Joint Concept
  • Gray Cook: Expanding on the Joint-by-Joint Approach
  • Greg Rose: SFMA Score Sheets and Flowcharts
  • Laurie McLaughlin: Introduction to Breathing
  • Gray Cook: Introduction to Heart Rate Variability
  • Gray Cook: Functional Movement Systems Team List
  • Gray Cook: Early Perspective and the Jump Study
  • Phil Plisky: Core Testing and Functional Goniometry
  • Lee Burton: FMS Scoring Criteria and Score Sheet
  • Authors: FMS Verbal Instructions
  • Gray Cook: Conventional Deep Squat Evaluation Process
  • Patient Self Evaluation Forms
  • List of Illustrations
  • References
  • Index

About Movement, head of the Russian Kettlebell Certification and author of Enter the Kettlebell! Pavel Tsatsouline wrote, “Once a decade comes out a book that you will keep reading, rereading, and crowding with notes until it falls apart. Then you buy a new copy and enthusiastically start over. In the 1990s it was Verkhoshansky and Siff’s ‘Supertraining.’ In the 2000s McGill’s ‘Ultimate Back.’ Enter the 2010s and Cook’s ‘Movement.’ It is a game changer.”

Dr. Craig Liebenson, San Francisco Workshop June 11-12

Craig Liebenson, certainly one of our top spinal rehab experts, is as much about returning to high performance athletics as he is about rehabilitation. He’s honed his skills over decades of medical study and practice on elite athletes, and in his new workshop has focused in on what he calls Continuum of Care.

In this 14-hour workshop, he teaches from a foundation of knowledge ranging from Janda (whom he studied under) to McGill, to Gray Cook and Michael Boyle. The range of material covered is remarkable — few people have this range of knowledge, let alone can they teach it. Craig teaches in an easy, clear manner, accessible to all of use, but will be particularly useful to musculoskeletal practitioners working with patients and clients.

The next event on the schedule is in San Francisco, the weekend of June 11-12. Here’s a link to the info page, and here’s the full workshop flyer.

Gray Cook Radio

Gray Cook is a chatterbox on the phone, assuming you can catch up with him when the phone rings. Once you get a hello, it’s usually clear sailing for a good conversation. After we finished our Movement book project, our conversations got a little less focused, and I began getting some exceptional advice from a guy who can tell at a glance what’s going on physically, and what I should be doing about it.

A couple of months ago, we realized some of these conversations might be valuable to others, so we started recording them. These are weekly eight- or ten-minute discussions in which I ask him a question and just sit back and let the tape roll. If I’m on the ball, you may get a follow-up question, and heck, once in a while the follow-ups might even be related.

We’ve got ten episodes online now ranging from breathing to body proportions, core firing to stability versus motor control, self-limiting exercise to increasing weight in the getup. Oh heck, here’s the list…

Episode Ten:
In this episode, Gray begins to develop the topic of breathing

Episode Nine:
What to expect from a Functional Movement Screen Workshop

Episode Eight:
Does Gray have a Daily Desk Jockey movement prescription?

Episode Seven:
What’s on Gray’s bookshelf as we move into spring?

Episode Six:
How do body proportions factor into movement screening?

Episode Five:
Planks, pushups, core firing and more

Episode Four:
Here Gray explains the difference between stability and motor control

Episode Three:
Dan John asks: Tell us more about the concept of self-limiting exercise

Episode Two:
Why does Gray suggest the heels-in, toes-out stance in club swinging?

Episode One:
In episode one, Gray describes how to move to a higher weight in the Kalos Stenos GetUp

And here’s the link to the Gray Cook Radio page.

Well, anyway, once in a great while I have something to offer him in return, usually involving some kind of technology. Or words.

Evan Osar: The Cervical Spine

by Evan Osar, DC
Fitness Education Seminars

Do you know what is the most sensitive area of the spine is?

Generally, people often think about the low back—the inordinate number of injuries and costs related to its treatment. Interestingly enough, the lumbar spine and pelvis are relatively stable albeit stressed by our poor habits and conditioning.

So what is the most sensitive area of the spine?  The cervical spine.

Why do I say this?

Just consider—

  • The thoracic spine is protected by the rib cage and some of the largest muscles in the body;
  • The lumbar spine and sacrum are protected and supported by the largest muscles in the body (including but not limited to the gluteus maximus, lumbar erectors, and abdominals) and the most dense fascial network in the body (the thoracolumbar fascia);
  • The cervical spine by comparison has some of the smallest muscles supporting it and doesn’t have the luxury of ribs or pelvis for protection;
  • It also holds a 10-14 pound object on top of it (the head) which supports the most sensitive structures in our body— the brain and brainstem as well as the 12 pairs of cranial nerves;
  • The cervical spine protects 8 pairs of spinal nerves and 2 of the major arteries of the brain (anteriorly the carotid artery and posteriorly the vertebral artery);
  • And a spinal cord injury occurring at the level of the cervical spine will affect function in the entire body possibly leading to quadruplegia, respiratory system compromise, and if significant enough, death.

So hopefully you can appreciate how important and sensitive this area of the body is. Unfortunately many of the things we do in life drive dysfunction of the cervical spine. What are the top 3 things we do that most dramatically affect its function?

1. Forward head posture:

For every one inch the head moves in front of the cervical spine, an additional weight of the head is added to the loads the cervical spine muscles now have to support. For example if your head is one inch in front of your cervical spine, your neck muscles now have to support 20-28 pounds instead of 10-14 pounds. If the head is two inches in front, now you have to support 30-42 pounds. Just think of the ramifications for your clients who more than two inches of forward head posture!

2. What is the most common cause of stress to the cervical spine?

It’s not poor exercise choices. It’s not because your client works too much on the computer. It’s not even because you don’t stretch enough. The most common cause of the forward head posture is poor respiratory habits. Overuse of the accessory muscles, primarily the pectoralis minor, sternocleidomastoid, and scalenes pull the cervical spine and head forward. And because respiration is a 24/7 activity, no amount of stretching or swithcing exercises or jobs will alter this pattern.

3. Poor shoulder stabilization:

Using the neck improperly as an anchor for arm movement overly stresses the cervical spine and neural structures. This dysfunctional pattern is often seen with poor scapular stabilization and improper dissociation of the glenohumeral joint.

How do we stabilize the cervical spine?



To improve function of the entire neuromusculoskeletal system,

1. We must teach our clients how to stabilize their neck, shoulder, and upper back.

2. We must improve their ability to breathe from their diaphragm rather than over-utilizing their neck.

This approach will relieve the massive stress on the the brainstem, cervical portion of the spinal cord, and cervical spinal nerves ultimately affecting function of the upper extremity and entire nervous system.

Evan Osar is a practicing chiropractor, author and lecturer. You can review more of his material and his workshop schedule on his website, Fitness Education Seminars. His newsletter archive is here, and his video collection is here.

Sports Rehab Teleseminars

Joe Heiler over at Sports Rehab Expert.com just published his first quarter teleseminar schedule—what a terrific line-up! The speakers run the range from physical therapist, chiropractic doc and strength coaches, and all are at the forefront of their fields. Check this list:

Sue Falsone PT, Athletes’ Performance and LA Dodgers
Ron Hruska PT, Postural Restoration Institute
Dr. Mike Leahy DC, developer of the Active Release Technique
Thomas Myers LMT,  author of Anatomy Trains
Brian Grasso, founder of the International Youth Conditioning Association
Greg Roskopf, developer of MAT, Muscle Activation Technique
Brian Mulligan PT, developer of the Mulligan Concept, Mobilizations with Movement
Dr. Warren Hammer DC,  Graston Technique, Fascial Manipulation
Dan John, strength coach, author of Never Let Go
Gray Cook PT, developer of the FMS,  author of Movement

The lecture series kicks off Tuesday at 8pm and runs Tuesdays through March. You don’t need to watch live if your schedule’s packed; you can watch later or re-watch for a week, and the seminars are free after a simple email signup. Register here.

Contrast Bath Therapy for Workout Recovery

At the back of the Spa Fitness Center, circa 1980, behind the thick, steamed-up glass, across the gold shag carpet and past the blue machine with the wooden fat rollers, picture a well-populated pool, steam and sauna area. Between the pool and the simmering whirlpool, a small, deep cold plunge. Why it was there, I never knew, but since it was, it must have been there for a reason, so I used it—sauna, steam, then cold plunge to whirlpool.

Thirty years later, the cold plunge is back in vogue, and perhaps there really is something to it, something more than Scandinavian history involving a sauna and the local snowpack.

Byron Chandler, one of our main educators over in the forum, writes, “Weightlifting coach Mike Burgener’s method of training is based on the Bulgarian system: It involves hard, heavy training on the Olympic lifts and variants on consecutive days, and he swears by cold baths after training to speed recovery. He reports it takes some cajoling at first to get people to dunk in an ice cold bath after training, but when they find they are recovered the next day, they are willing to keep at it. I decided to try it and I think it does reduce soreness the next day. While it doesn’t feel good shivering in the shower, it does feel good after.”

Okay, so Byron suggests it to me; I’ve seen it over and over in workout recovery articles, and of course I understand the value of icing an injury to bring down the inflammation, so I take it a little seriously, but not so serious it held longer than a single heart-stopping trial run.

Then a couple other people I trust, Suzie Lundgren, my miracle-working Feldenkrais teacher, followed by Laurel Wolfe, a knowledgeable myofascial massage therapist, recommended trying alternating hot and cold water in the post-workout shower.

A month later, with a contrast shower shaking up my skin and jolting my circulatory system daily, let’s start with the obvious part: This gets easier with practice.

One thing I’m working on is to calm the breathing, calm the shock factor. It’s fascinating to feel the difference between a fast plunge, the instant switch from hot to cold, vs a slower change involving several steps from the hottest to the coldest. Obviously, the slower changes are less of a jolt and easier to handle, but I also think the method might be a little more useful, too, because there are multiple surges of circulatory stimulation, and if you take your time, breathe calmly with eyes closed, you can clearly feel the systemic wave of circulation, entirely different from the breath-taking jolt as the water switches from the hottest to the iciest.

I’ll have to practice both techniques more to be certain; one thing’s for sure: working on the slower switches between hot and cold have made the instant switch a lot easier to handle, so at the very least, you can use that to ease yourself into contrast bath post-workout therapy.

The longer and hotter you stay in the heat, the more cold you can handle… longer.

Says Mike Nelson, “Remember, the body uses sympathetic and parasympathetic stimulation. Think of sympathetic as the accelerator (increases heart rate, among other effects) and parasympathetic as the brake (slows down heart rate).

The body likes to have a balance of parasympathetic and sympathetic at all times. Acute exercise (in general) increases sympathetic stimulation. A proposed way to faster recovery (ability to do more work with a shorter period of rest) is to increase parasympathetic, the “rest and digest” component of the nervous system.”

Mike continues, “I am not currently sold on cold water immersion for recovery purposes. This study is very interesting, but other data is conflicting.”

The paper The Effect of Cold Water Immersion on Postexercise Parasympathetic Reactivation, Buchheit, Peiffer, Abbiss, Laursen, (2009), implies success: “CWI may serve as a simple and effective means to accelerate parasympathetic reactivation during the immediate period following supramaximal exercise.”

As does, The Effect of Contrast Water Therapy on Symptoms of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, Vaile, Gill & Blazevich, (2007):  “Contrast water therapy seems to be effective in reducing and improving the recovery of functional deficiencies that result from DOMS, as opposed to passive recovery.”

Over at Mark Verstegen’s Core Performance, their group suggests, “By immersing the body in alternating temperature extremes, you can increase blood flow and promote muscle recovery. The hot water causes your blood to rush away from your internal organs and towards your skin. The cold water causes the blood to rush away from your skin to keep your internal organs safe and warm. … Not only will the increased blood flow promote muscle recovery, the cold water in particular will decrease the natural post-workout inflammation.”

Here’s an opposing viewpoint on page 232 of Therapeutic Modalities (Kenneth Knight), who believes the contrast bath therapy is flawed, and suggests general workout soreness is best treated in a warm whirlpool.

Contrasting heat and cold hydrotherapy is contraindicated for patients with kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and possibly hyperthyroid conditions.

Here’s the deal—no big surprise: You have to try it and decide for yourself. If you have thoughts, please contribute to our community here: Hot and Cold Plunge thread.

During my 1980 Spa time, I didn’t use the fat rollers, so I guess “because it’s there” wasn’t really the reason for the cold-plunge use now that I think of it. I wonder if in retrospect the rollers worked better than expected, too. No… no… I’ll have to draw the line there.

Self-myofascial Release: Shiatsubag

What’s the next step in self-myofascial massage, the one after you’ve gotten the hang of using a foam roller? One good option is a six-inch dense EVA myofascial-release ball; that’s an implement I spend a serious amount of time rolling around on night after night.

Well, if one’s good, what happens when you bag up a bunch of four-inch balls? That’s what the Shiatusbag triggerpoint therapy’s designer came up with and, you know, it’s a bit goofy, but I like it.


At 3:30 look for a vocal explanation during which the product’s designer demonstrates other uses for the bag o’ balls involving different surfaces, and explains with this, “You don’t have the balance problems or support problems found with a foam roller or a self-myofascial release ball.”

Now I don’t happen to have a piano bench and haven’t tried that surface option, but I do have a floor… and a hassock… and a couch with a beefy armrest, and I’ve draped a Shiatsubag over them all to gauge the differences in surface density. Myself, I like it to really dig in, and was happy to find ways to intensify the action.

The product comes with ten firm EVA balls and five softer ones. I wrote to ask the manufacturer, Larry Herbert, for his thinking behind using two different type balls, and his response, “the larger four-inch softer balls mainly to act as supporting cushions, and it is the three-and-a-half-inch firm balls that provide the myofascial release,” made sense.

Continuing with his response, “Some of the feedback from users who are less physically active and prefer to experience a comfortable massage thought the balls were too firm and created some discomfort.  However, users who are physically active in programs such as weightlifting, Crossfit and running enjoy the deep penetration and myofascial therapy that the firmer balls provide.  Matt Ryan, M.A., ATC, LPTA & Athletic Training Supervisor at Santa Cruz Medical Clinic who endorses the product, believes the current balls are the proper hardness and will provide the most benefit for trigger point release and myofascial therapy.  It comes down to personal requirements; the Shiatsubag has an opening to change the quantity and type of balls to adapt to individual needs.”

Having spent a boatload of time trying to get more intensity from myofascial release, I tend to remove the softer balls in favor of a bag of similar-sized, denser ones. In fact, I went a step further and filled the bag with tennis balls, smaller yet from the EVA balls, to see if the massaging gained pressure. Then I swapped the tennis balls back out for the original mixed bag and practiced with it on the sofa arm for the back of the lower legs; later I took the larger balls out and finagled bunching the bag up for a clump of a neck massage.

At $39.95 for the Shiatsubag’s myofascial pain relief, about half the cost of a single hands-on massage, you’ll have at hand a way to reinforce full-body muscle relaxation in the evenings in front of the tv. I was thinking of suggesting you not watch the news while rolling around on the thing since that wouldn’t be very relaxing, but hey, why not? It’ll distract you so much you’ll barely hear the politics of whatever’s happening in Congress, and you’ll hardly notice the drone of the commentator’s nightly panel. I say go for it!

You can also buy the EVA myofascial pain relief balls separately to test out the bag-o-balls theory on the cheap.

Foam rolling is practically mainstream these days. Still, there may be readers who haven’t jumped on the wagon yet, and there are certainly many more who haven’t branched out to other rolling implements. One of our main educational guys, Mike Robertson, offers up this free 47-page ebook, Self MyoFascial Release: Purpose, Methods and Techniques, to explain the hows and whys of rolling around on dense round things.

For an extra giggle, there’s this: I’m sitting on a shitatu bag of balls atop my desk chair at this very moment.

Bypass to Back Surgery

Last week I wrote a brief comment in closing the newsletter that the bypass done by Dave’s surgeon in February of last year didn’t really fix anything. A few email correspondents questioned that, some wondering of my meaning and others flatly disagreeing.

Still others wrote to ask about his recent surgery, or how we felt about his lengthy chelation treatments now that we have the benefit of hindsight. This seems like a good opportunity for an overview of his medical history of the past couple of years so we’ll have it all in one place for later review.

In June of 2006, we went with a number of other IronOnline forum members to a small bash event in Juneau, Alaska. Dave was a month or a bit more into a problem with occasional numbness in his legs, and on the trip he discovered it was bad enough to keep him from walking with our fellow travelers.

Along with the tingling and stinging in his legs came a shortness of breath, and because of his past history of heart disease, including stents his cardiologist embedded in 2000 to open an artery, we began this drama again at the cardiologist’s. We didn’t get much of a response from the doctor who had taken over the practice a couple years before and with whom we didn’t have a relationship, and lacking confidence in his shrug of the shoulders, in November we went to another cardiologist for a second opinion.

The new doctor sent Dave for the normal list of cardiac testing, ending with an angiogram in January, 2007. His recommendation was a referral to a cardiac surgeon for a quadruple bypass, and as long as his chest was open, the suggestion was to fix a heart valve that was damaged during his 1983 near-fatal congestive heart failure. Both the bypass and the valve repair were done about a month later, February 22, 2007.

The results of this major, sternum-opening surgery were disappointing because he didn’t get better after it. In fact, within a few months he’d had a heart attack, decreasing his heart function even more. Would he have had that either way? Of course, we’ll never know.

This is not to say he didn’t need bypass grafts — that also we’ll never know for sure. The disappointment was his breathing didn’t get better, which was one thing the bypass was expected to address.
The major benefit of the valve repair would have been if he’d been able to go off blood thinners, but since his heart is regularly in atrial fibrillation because of the earlier heart failure, he’s not able to enjoy that aspect of the valve repair.

Meanwhile, his cardiac surgeon knew of his original complaint of trouble walking, and sent him off to a vascular surgeon after bypass recovery, thinking perhaps his arterial blockage was systemic and a case of peripheral artery disease (PAD) was causing the stinging legs, what PAD sufferers recognize as intermittent claudication.

That made sense to us, but two months and two vascular surgeons later, the agreement was that he had a mild case of PAD, but they did not think it was enough to cause his worsening leg problems, and they both recommended no further action.

At this point, about a year into the process, we were beginning to wonder about nerve blockage in the low back, but with the choice being back surgery or another stab at clearing the arteries, we went toward the less aggressive alternative medicine option, which was the point you began to hear Dave’s stories of sitting in the doctor’s office during his twice-a-week, three-hour intravenous chelation treatments.

Three months later, with the leg pains still worsening and the chelation treatments finished, Dave next went to a back pain specialist who ordered an MRI. When he got an offer of cold laser treatments with little assurance of success, Dave made an appointment with a physiatrist, who read the same MRI and told him nothing but back surgery was going to help.

The physiatrist’s referral to neurosurgeon in February, Dr. Jim Kohut, led to further cardiology workups, including installation of a pacemaker, before the surgeon was comfortable performing such a major back surgery on a guy with an ailing heart.

Incidentally, this involved another cardiologist, Dr. Raj Singh, with whom Dave enjoys a newfound confidence and to whom his medical files were permanently transferred. In the process of getting Dave ready for the back surgery, Dr. Singh did another angiogram and a bit over a year after the bypass declared his newly grafted arteries completely clear.

During bypass, two mammary arteries in his chest were moved into place, one artery from an arm was used and a large vein from his leg. Were those arteries and the vein clear when moved from their natural spots? Or did the chelation treatments clear existing blockages? Unfortunately for those of you who were following the chelation adventure for your own purposes, we’ll probably never know.

As it turns out, what he needed to address his leg symptoms was back surgery – laminectomy at L2, L3, L4 and L5, which was done five weeks ago. We’re now two years and a few months from those initial days of increasing disability, and today, after a variety of medical visits, he’s finally on the upswing in terms of normal, pain-free walking.

Corrective Exercise Rehab Report

Monday was Day One of my return to regular weight training after six months of corrective exercise rehab. Most of my forum pals can’t fathom why I would consider taking that much time away from the gym, and truthfully if I’d have known in advance it would take that long, I wouldn’t have done it.

At least, not until something decked me, which once you see the list you’ll realize was about to happen. Talk about a train wreck!

Tired of daily back aches and knowing there wasn’t an actual injury causing the problem, I decided at the first of the year to take a month and try to figure it out. Six months have passed, and take a look at the list of nagging niggles that are now either completely gone or at least mostly gone and fading fast.

Chronic pains that I’d had for months, years or decades – note the past tense:

Joints hurt, especially in the morning
Lousy posture, real lousy
Head tilted to one side slightly
Couldn’t turn head to the right very well
Twinge in the neck when turning head left
One shoulder raised
Internally rotated shoulders (palms facing rear)
Right shoulder ache
Impingement pain under left scapula
Elbow ache
Wrist ache
Thumb ache
Upper back ache
Lower back ache
Scoliosis (functional not actual)
One leg shorter than the other (functional not actual)
Shifted from leg to leg when standing, due to hip pain
Habitually stood on one leg with hip jutted out
Achilles tendonitis
Heel pain (resulting in a closet full of perfect left shoes and worn-down right shoes with costly insoles and heel lifts)
Dropped metatarsal, both feet
Duck walk (toes pointed out)

How did those get fixed? Surprisingly easy:

Worked mobility of all joints
Stretched some spots
Strengthened others
Worked out the triggerpoints littered throughout

I’m still waiting for a few things to settle in; that part takes a while. There’ll be a day of blissful pain-free motion — like I’m really moving well — then a day of lots of popping and shifting of the joints, or even a day of reminder of the old chronic aches. Following that will be another day or two of childlike movement that reminds me why I veered off the mainstream and onto this corrective exercise course.

I’m fully convinced most everyone who trains who has regular muscle and skeletal pain and those who get injured often in training, can make themselves feel better by a dedicated joint mobility program and by fixing relatively easy structural imbalances caused by one side being too tight and the other too weak.

It’s a pain in the rear because there aren’t too many people around — the personal trainers and the medical pros — who can do a hands-on analysis and simply tell us what to do. As this field grows enough that we can pop by the clinic and get a personalized exercise and stretching assignment, everyone will be doing it… for sure, because it works, and sometimes fast.

Obviously we can’t fix everything, but I’m 100% sure we can make things better. I’m also absolutely certain this past half-year’s effort has halted any arthritis that may have been developing due to poorly moving joints. In fact, let me give you a hint here: That thoracic spine of yours that doesn’t move very much is a nest for your growing arthritis. Get after it while you can!

My project for July: Are pain-free noisy knees fixable? We used to say if there was no pain, it was no problem; just ignore it. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe it means the knees aren’t tracking as well as they could be. I’ll let you know what I find out, and if somehow these crunchy knees go quiet, I’ll holler out with your fix-it instructions.

Feldenkrais group class vs individual treatment

Last week, the half-way point in my ten-week introduction to Feldenkrais movement classes, I decided to spring for an individual therapy session. It was both an enjoyable experience as well as a breakthrough, so let me tell you about it.

In the group lessons, about a dozen women and one brave guy spend about an hour and a half on the floor, sometimes face up, sometimes face down. The instructor in this case is a woman who knows as much as any doctor about how the muscles work together and what input each bodypart needs from the others to do its job.

Using as little verbal guidance as possible, and even less visual — but as much as necessary — she runs the class through a list of tiny movements designed to remind the brain how to use more muscles. She doesn’t exactly tell us how to do it; the purpose is to use the micro-exercises to trigger a brain response, not for her to explain the action.

For instance, at the beginning of the session, the raising of an arm may start at the shoulder; at the end of the class the whole of the back beginning at the opposite hip will get in on the action. Little by little, more muscles at work to move the arm, the point being less fatigue and less pain when the body movements are optimal.

Now this may sound silly, and to a visitor watching but not participating, it must look as goofy as all getout. But I’ll tell you, I leave these classes moving very smoothly, very nicely for about a day, then sore all over the following day. We’re using muscles in these small, targeted exercises that usually don’t get much use, and it’s enough of a pain that I’ve had to schedule my regular training around the class instead of the other way around.

After a few classes, I began to get clues about which areas are giving me the most trouble, the thoracic spine and the hips— still. Since the instructor had seen what I can and can’t do, it seemed like a good time to schedule an individual session.

I expected her to walk me through a list of personalized exercises, but that wasn’t how this treatment turned out. Instead, it was hands-on, her moving my joints through their full ranges of motion with me on the table, passive.

Let me tell you first off, it was very pleasant, and the range of motion was a good deal better than I can perform on my own. This was joint mobility at the highest level; Moshe Feldenkrais again ahead of his time.

How about the results? That’s the real issue, and more than just that post-session afternoon, during which I *floated* around town doing errands.

Once home, I try my most important test — on the floor, face up, to gauge how the hips rest: flat. What’s that again? FLAT, that is to say, hips resting evenly on the floor.

Now I’m stunned, not quite believing what I’m feeling. I’m about six months into a corrective exercise, rehabilitation phase designed to fix a number of issues, the most difficult of which was an anterior tilt in one hip and a posterior tilt in the other; one hip shifted forward, the other back, which flat on the floor means one rests heavily as the other barely touches. That day — last Thursday — they rested evenly for the first time in twenty or thirty years.

Today, six days later, they’re still even. I’m nervous to write this, but I will anyway: This problem seems fixed. You notice I’m still too chicken to write that it IS fixed. But I think it is.

Here’s what I think happened. I spent the past months strengthening the back of one side and the front of the other, and lengthening the front of one side and the back of the other. All the prep work was done; the imbalance had been fixed. It just took the Feldenkrais practitioner to move the joints through their full ranges of motion — farther and smoother than I’m able to do using muscle action — for the brain to recognize the mobility.

It sounds as far-fetched as — I dunno— astrology, maybe. But I’m here to tell you, those hips are even, and I wasn’t able to do it alone.

It’s been frustrating to do all the right work, really attentively, with little or no results. Ugly work, one side getting one program and the other side a different one, with nothing to show for it these months later. Then, all of the sudden— poof— I’m done.

I’m wildly guessing here, but I wonder if it’s not a case of how long the problem was there, the duration of the imbalance. If it had only been a recent development, those oddly tilting hips, the corrective exercises may have worked alone, and I’d have been telling you of that success long ago.

Perhaps if you’ve had a problem for a long time and have worked the appropriate corrective exercise program diligently with no results, maybe, just maybe, you’ll experience a miraculous correction with an individual Feldenkrais session.

Sagittal, frontal and transverse planes: Planes of human motion

What are the planes of motion and why do we care? Let’s sort this out, just between us gymrats. While it’s true that we don’t really *need* to know this stuff, it’s also true we’re going to bump into the terms more and more when reading modern training articles. It’s time we caught up with this generation of training lingo. We’ll take the simple route, I promise.

The main problem for most of us is that we weren’t introduced to the terms in our early training (today that reads: Who needs it?). Additionally, the actions along the planes don’t seem to match the describing terms; for example, the frontal plane motions are left to right, and our brains just kind of disconnect in a sort of “I can’t learn that” frustration when we see frontal associated with side to side.

At its simplest:

  • Sagittal = forward or backward
  • Frontal = side to side (definitely confusing)
  • Transverse = rotational

To picture the three planes, imagine slicing through the body, like so:

  • First through the center, dividing the body from the left to the right to make up the sagittal plane
  • Next through the body from the left side to the right, separating the front and back halves to create the frontal plane (front side and back side)
  • Finally cutting straight through the hips to divide the top of the body from the bottom, the transverse plane

That’s not so hard. It starts to get a little more complicated when we begin to sort out which motions move along the planes. You want to think of the motion as moving along the surface of the plane, rather than visualizing the sectioned off body.

Planes of motion look like this:

Sagittal plane motion would include forward and backward motions, like sit-ups, back extensions or biceps curls. The sagittal plane cuts through the center of the body, so the motion is front to back or back to front, including straight forward running. Squats involve flexion (forward motion) and extension (backwards on the way up), so would fit into the sagittal plane.

Frontal plane motion would include leaning from left to right as in sidebends and lateral raises, or perhaps you might picture jumping jacks for a good image of movement along the frontal plane.

Transverse plane motion is the hardest to picture because the plane is horizontal as it divides the top from the bottom, so it’s hard to get our heads around it being a rotating action. The main thing to remember is rotation. An example of a transverse plane exercise would be floor to overhead diagonals with a medicine ball, and a transverse activity might be swinging a golf club.

Why would an average trainee need to know this? Two reasons, really. It comes up fairly often as we read the work of our favorite writers, because these folks know this stuff and it comes out naturally for them. It’s frustrating to have to skim sections because we don’t know the lingo, and in internet reading, skimming a section often means losing interest and clicking away before we get to the vital parts.

Secondly, what’s most important about the planes is to know they exist and to make sure our training programs include exercises along each. Our most common gym exercises are on the sagittal plane, moving forward or back such as in flat pressing, pushups, crunches or even squats and lunges.

When you create your training programs, be sure to add some frontal plane and transverse plane exercises to bring up your built-in injury prevention. That’s what’s going to help ensure good balance in your muscular body. Training only on one plane will pretty much do the opposite.

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