When we first started Train Adapt Evolve we did everything for free. It was a stellar business model. We started by giving out Omegawave mobile monitors to friends or athletes curious about the technology for free. I will admit, this was also for selfish reasons. I wanted to collect data, watch, and learn. This has now evolved into us putting athletes on our mobile platform and consulting with coaches and/or athletes.
Recently we had an opportunity to consult with a UFC fighter and his coach preparing for an upcoming fight. The daily Omegawave results were not uncommon from what we have seen in the past which include former UFC champions.
As both Ben and I learn more from coaches or nutritionists in the MMA scene, one thing is becoming increasingly clear:
It is chaos.
The 1% of the 1%
I often hear S&C coaches talking about making their fighters tougher. This blows my mind!
If you are a MMA Fighter – you are tough.
If you fight for the UFC you are the 1% of the 1% of the toughest dudes on the planet. Congrats. I hope that is nothing knew to you.
So why in the hell do you think battle ropes and MB slams are going to make you tougher? Maybe I should ask the S&C coach that question. Why is making the athlete tougher the objective? If this was the case, we could go down to the local box gym, pick out a few guys who are burpee’n their faces off at the moment and throw them in the cage.
That toughness won’t last long.
An S&C coach with a “toughness” objective can do more harm than good. Messing with psychology via exhaustive work is sending up a Hail Mary and is a crap tool. Get rid of it and try to look into the future. Wholesale changes will not happen overnight and progress made in a short 8-12 weeks stint of training will be dependent on the athlete’s daily readiness during camp and structural adaptations prior.
In a sport where multiple qualities need training, our job may be better suited in managing fatigue (if no one else will) and secondly, filling in the performance gaps when we can.
We need to take a supportive role.
Therefore structuring depleting-type workouts in the morning, then sending the athlete off to their wrestling coach or sparing in the afternoon is a shit job.
Without a doubt there have been fighters not at the top of their game solely because of old school beliefs still held by S&C coaches.
Chalk one up for Toughness!
“I am always training.”
Is common phrase often heard in MMA and I don’t doubt that the athletes are in fact training, but are they including the necessary lifestyle modifications to support the training – sleep and nutrition?
Both are always emphasised during training camp but if the athlete is “always training” those lifestyle habits need to be a mainstay day to day. Living hard and training hard don’t mix or have a long shelf life.
If the truth be told, we have have seen signs of overreaching even before training camp has begun – a combination of training and poor lifestyle choices. This could explain the inconsistencies, injuries, and question marks that surface about a fighter’s preparation. Entering training camp in this state will only be maintenance job at best.
The mentality of “living the athlete life” for 8 or 12 weeks at a time is not enough.
We believe post fight is just as important. Especially if a fighter has received a mild to severe brain injury. This opens up the body “literally” to both gut and blood-brain barrier permeability. Taking the necessary steps post fight can not only set the athlete up for the next training period but can also contribute to the athletes health which may prolong their career.
The biggest hurdle in the process is communication between the coaches. In most cases there is not one person managing the stress of the athlete. General the athlete is left on his own to navigate the process with a collection of coaches/voices. That lack of one true voice steering the ship will no doubt lead to insecurities and unorganized preparation.
There are current UFC fighters that have a team of coaches (S&C, boxing, wrestling, Muay thai, Jujitsu, etc) that have no idea what the other coach is doing, or how the athlete is recovering. All they know is how they are going to implement their own specific agenda. This usually ends with an overload of suboptimal training with very low emphasis on quality.
The bright spot is there are a camps structuring their team using an integrated approach. The two that come to mind are the Blackzilians and Team TakeDown. Medical, S&C, and the multi-discipline coaches are all on the same page, sharing notes, collaborating, and adjusting the fighters preparation.
If you are a fighter, start the conversation with your team. If you are a coach, start the conversation with the other coaches. If not there will no doubt be uncomfortable conversations later through defeat or injuries. Avoid the chaos.
By: Aaron Davis
*Photo by Diana Kurtzer
Back to writing. 🙂
As I was walking out of the first day of the Optimizing Athleticism Seminar, Dr. Culleton asked me, “That was phenomenal, what do you think the audience took from that?” I had been contemplating the same thought as the day progressed. The audience was primarily strength coaches and physical therapists and Dr. Rakowski who headlined the first day was not playing coy with big words and systems biology. I responded to Dr. Culleton,”Probably not that much right now, but they now know what they don’t know, and this group of people will run with that somewhere special.”
This conversation has floated in and out of my mind over the past week and it becomes a question of scope of practice and ultimately responsibility to the client to do the right thing. Davis and I have posted on this topic many times. We both believe that a Strength Coach’s knowledge base must be vast, but not necessarily overly specific until they find their passion/niche. They have to be able move seamlessly and talk intelligently with many other professions. I will give two examples of how I feel the strength coach or personal trainer is either the gateway to health or the hammer of dysfunction.
Many of us have seen and/or signed the waiver forms that say: You must see a health care professional before starting this or that exercise program.
And how many clients actually do that?
But this is because the average Joe primary care physician isn’t going to tell anyone anything unless they have some set of obvious symptoms that fit into the bundle of this or that disease that can then be medicated “appropriately”. At which point you might be thinking why the hell did I go or send someone I care about there!
“Disastrously, primary care is a dying field, yet at the same time primary care diseases are increasing at dramatic rates.”
Mark Hyman MD
The average primary care physician can tell you nothing about function or underlying causes of dysfunction, let alone address how these dysfunctions could or are leading to decrements in performance. They can only tell you if you have a disease state. This is not very helpful to the strength coach, personal trainer, or client. However, a strength coach that has been introduced to functional medicine will know that there are those professionals out there that can tell them something of value and help further individualize and care for their clients throughout the life course.
Does the strength coach or personal trainer need to be an expert in Functional Medicine? Absolutely not, that cannot be expected, but they do need to understand the recommendations and the potential pitfalls of their approaches in the weight room and work with a health care professional to form a plan that will include more data points and quality input over time. Some strength coaches or nutritionists may catch the bug and want to go back to school for a decade or so to thrive in such a profession and that is also powerful but we cannot try to fix problems beyond our current abilities, because in that scenario everyone loses.
If you weren’t at the seminar you may be asking – Dude! What is Functional Medicine?
“Functional medicine is a dynamic approach to assessing, preventing, and treating complex chronic disease. Functional medicine helps clinicians identify and ameliorate dysfunctions in the physiology and biochemistry of the human body as a primary method of improving patient health. Functional medicine clinicians focus on restoring balance to the dysfunctional systems by strengthening the fundamental physiological processes that underlie them, and by adjusting the environmental inputs that nurture or impair them. This approach leads to therapies that focus on restoring health and function, rather than simply controlling signs and symptoms.”
Jeffrey Bland PhD
The second example moves to the realm of physical therapy. Many strength coaches, including myself have taken a plethora of physical therapy or massage therapy based certifications or apprenticeships. I am confident with my hands and can fix a lot of problems that come up in the gym, but I am not naïve enough to think that I can fix all the problems. For example, a strength coach doesn’t need to know everything a DPT does, but they should know what they don’t know and refer out when they can’t fix a problem or need a second opinion. And then if a strength coach is lit with a passion for physical therapy they should follow that path and enroll in physical therapy or massage therapy school and/or shadow the best of the best.
This may strike some as unfair, why does the strength coach have to be a generalist and be able to communicate effectively with so many other “specialties” to be able to provide a true health building performance experience for their client. Yet, the same can be said for the functional medicine practitioners and physical therapists. They need to lift and have an understanding of foundational strength and conditioning concepts, programming, and exercise selection so that they can in turn communicate effectively with the strength coach or personal trainer.
The ultimate goal is for this network of professionals to be able to have a thoughtful conversation, understand and formulate a plan for the client, and then test that this plan is working and redirect if needed.
That one sentence…will likely take you years to find the right people and learn enough to make this happen. Take that as a challenge, I hope it doesn’t stop you.
Canada Basketball deserves some props here as they have built an interdisciplinary model and have hired a staff of stellar physical therapists, strength coaches, and functional medicine practitioners to drive performance as far as possible while monitoring and building health from underneath. All of us are building and tuning up this machine while it’s being driven and there will likely be many models and systems that come out of this work, but Canada Basketball seems to be integrating and applying faster than most. Here is a great Podcast with Dr. Marc Bubbs, Canada Basketball’s Functional Medicine Doc.
On the private side, many may have noticed that Davis and I bridge the gap between S&C and Nutrition/Functional Medicine (and we are not alone). Davis is in my mind one of the best S&C minds in the country and will stop at nothing to understand how the body adapts to different exercise and lifestyle stimuluses and then how best to apply this knowledge. I still maintain a personal training client load and likely always will, but have slowly transitioned more towards the functional medicine side of the spectrum with the help from many unbelievable mentors and colleagues. Yet, given all this, if there is a physical therapy problem or pathology that we can’t figure out we have physical therapists, osteopaths, MDs, and DCs, that we can refer out to without hesitation.
No one has all the answers, but ignorance is dangerous. Hunt down what you don’t know. Then establish what and how much you need to know so that you can further understand and help your clients. Strip the shackles of what other people think you should do because of some title and create a community to get the job done.
By: Ben House PhD Candidate, FDN, fNMT
*Pics by Rabah Rahil
I have read a lot of posts lately that give broad recommendations based on circadian rhythms or the idea that certain hormones or biological systems are high or low at different times of the day. Don’t drink coffee at this time, but drink coffee at this time, work out at this time, eat carbs at this time, and on down the line. This may be a great way to get clicks, but these generalizations are likely ineffective for any one individual, and perhaps even dangerous. Many people know about cortisol which peaks in the morning to wake us and then dwindles as the day progresses. Melatonin on the other hand wanes in the morning and creeps back up to its peak in the evening allowing us to go to sleep. Both ideally and theoretically. Melatonin and cortisol are not the only peaks and valleys in the system but without getting them back in step you won’t be able to correct other hormonal imbalances. Every hormone in the body is pulsatile and the brain is constantly collecting data and adapting to whatever situation we give it.
Dr. Gottfried puts cortisol dysregulation at 92% of the population. We don’t live in a primal world. Some people never see the sun, let alone feel it on their skin. We can do anything we want whenever we want. We aren’t active throughout the day, but instead exercise in spurts. 90 cents of every dollar we spend on food is thrown away on processed garbage which dismantles our internal clocks through blood sugar spikes, insulin surges, and food sensitives/allergies. Most of our lives are not ideal, and thus theoretically most Americans do not have intact circadian rhythms.
I haven’t tested a single person with a normal cortisol rhythm on an Adrenal Stress Index (and I service a high end demographic in one of the healthiest cities in the United States). In fact, I rarely ever run them because we can save money and work on lifestyle changes to actually fix the underlying problem instead. If they need buy in, I’ll order the panel and explain to them that their HPA axis is struggling and/or dysregulated. Sometimes people need to see numbers, sometimes they don’t. You have to decide how long of a lever you need to move the client to the correct actions for them.
Hans Seyle founded various stages of “Adrenal Fatigue”, however, I don’t believe in the linearity of those stages and for most people adrenal burnout or fatigue is likely brain based (only a very small portion of the population has actual Addison’s disease or the destruction of adrenal tissue). As Nora Gedgaudas puts it the adrenal glands are just hormone factories doing what they are told to do. To fix the problem you have to change the message to and from the brain, and this is why adrenal fatigue supplement protocols are a waste of money without appropriate lifestyle change.
You can’t out supplement lifestyle, no matter how much vitamin C and adrenal glandulars you are inhaling. Sometimes you may need supplements to correct certain issues you can’t fix with lifestyle alone, but ultimately you have to change the message to the brain by breaking the stress response and telling the body there is not a charging bison and a five alarm fire around every street corner. This again is highly individual and you have to figure out what their stressors are: environmental, over-exercising, under-exercising, emotional stories they replay again and again in their heads, underlying infections, blood sugar swings, food intolerances, and/or a combination of the above.
Let’s look at the most common example I see.
Now say you have a client who comes to you and claims to be an Owl. They are most productive in the evening and wouldn’t dream of going to bed before midnight. They “feel” fine, but crave sugar, and get irritable between meals. They also wouldn’t dream of eating a big breakfast.
The first and most common form of cortisol dysregulation is an inverted rhythm. Meaning cortisol is higher at night than in the morning. Due to this rhythm, this person feels dog tired in the morning and progressively gets more energy as the day goes on. They may still get really tired in the afternoon if this has been going on for a long time, but then they catch a second wind and perk back up in the evening. Due to cortisol being high in the evening they aren’t going to be able to get a good night’s rest and the horrific cycle continues.
Now say a trainer has read some chronobiology texts and believes in the Owl vs. Lark philosophy. Great, no problem, but you better damn well know that your client is in an ideal state before you go justifying having them work out at 6pm, which will likely push their circadian rhythm back even farther and feed the underlying problem.
This is because if they are in the above pattern of cortisol dysregulation what they need to do is exactly the opposite of what they will want to do. They first need to reestablish their cortisol awakening response which can be done with a very short bout of exercise upon waking (talking 5-10 min), they have to eat something for breakfast that has protein and fat, and they have to control their blood sugar throughout the day. They then need to do cover all the other aspects involved in building health: investigate underlying and unseen causes of stress, limit work and emotional stress whenever possible, move every day, get sunlight especially in the morning, and unplug at night, but none of those other strategies will work if you just let them do what they want.
They may hate you for a time, but in two months when they feel better than they ever have and are sleeping like a baby from 10pm to 6am, you will be the hero. And if they are in fact an Owl and have given it their best shot, done some serious healing, and you retest their rhythm and it is normal then you can play with pushing some things back.
We are animals and we live with the sun, the moon, and also with the seasons. We have daily, monthly, and seasonal rhythms. Our culture has thrown away these ebbs and flows and replaced them with 24 hour grocery stores with every color food you could dream of. This is only bad if you let it be, but making the assumption that we can construct and popularize rash generalizations on what rhythm every person should have is asinine and dangerous. Biological rhythms live with the individual and should be treated as such. We must look objectively at the situation and collect data whether it is in the form of an ASI, blood work, and/or questionnaires. Then we must further individualize the recommendations to maximize adherence because that ultimately is all that matters.
Are you an insightful enough professional to ask the hard questions and to figure out how to get the results very few can?
Are you a coach who is athlete centered and not tied to what you think should happen or what worked for you?
Are you a client who is receptive and confident enough to live outside the norms of a society that is smothering the essence of what it means to be human with concrete, anti-depressants, and flashing lights?
By: Ben House PhD Candidate, FDN, fNMT
It’s 4:10am in the morning. I couldn’t sleep I was so excited about life. It’s ok, I went to bed at 8pm. We have swept real health under a rug and replaced it with the cursory definition – lack of ill-health or disease. All of us deserve the right to quality health care, we deserve the right to answers. We deserve the right to leading indicators. Unfortunately, in our current climate the only one who can do anything about this is YOU.
People feel their doctor can’t help them unless their appendix is going to blow up or they lacerated their femoral artery with a chainsaw. This is because they go to the doctor’s office and the conventional doc says, “Your labs look great! Cholesterol is a little high, so watch your fat intake.” Your insurance paid 900 dollars, for that? All this even though you are 60% of the way to diabetes, have brain fog, and feel like the carpet got pulled out from under you at 3pm. The writing is on the wall…they just can’t see it.
There is no better marriage than Athletic Performance and Functional Medicine. For some this may seem like an oxymoronic statement, but the people that I have found who are willing to take a good hard look at their physiology and what’s going on with the system are after optimization. They aren’t happy with just getting by or using the bullshit phrase, “I’m getting older.”
For many athletes and clients, we are the gateway into the functional or integrative medicine realm. The OmegaWave is one of the best check engine lights on the market and it usually gives a loudspeaker to the voice in the back of your head that is whispering maybe things aren’t OK. Enough talk let’s take a look at a few imaginary case studies.
1. A twenty something female athlete who wants to optimize aerobic and anaerobic capacity, as well as strength and power. She trains 5 to 6 times a week combined with a busy job and sometimes goes out on weekends. She feels ok, but has recently felt very fatigued and has been needing more and more caffeine to get going especially later in the day. She also can’t seem to get her work done as fast as before. Her coach tells her to get more sleep.
She comes into your office and you find out she is borderline anemic, so none of the tissues in her body are getting adequate oxygen so thus the oxygen depleted body is only dealing out oxygen to the most necessary function. She is also deficient in vitamin D despite taking 2,000 IUs of a vitamin D supplement from Whole Foods. Finally, due to years of birth control use her binding globulins are elevated so even though her thyroid hormone production is adequate to turn on every cell in the body, the signal isn’t as strong as it should be. Think this couldn’t possibly be you?
9-12% of Caucasian women and 20% of minority women have full blown anemia.
50% of American Adults and 70% of American Children are Vitamin D Deficient.
62% of women of reproductive age are currently on oral contraceptives.
2. A male client with 2 young children. He wants to stay lean and look good for his wife as well as be the vibrant man he has always dreamt of for his two boys. He runs a construction company and lifts with some friends 4 to 5 times a week. He was a college athlete and has stayed in pretty good shape since then. He thinks his diet is way better than everyone else’s’. He sleeps about 6 hours a night, but just can’t shake the fact that he doesn’t have as much energy as he used to, he forgets where his keys are regularly, and is starting to lose the hair on his legs. His doctor said he looks fantastic and that his total cholesterol is superb at 147 mg/dl, far below what he sees in most patients.
This patient comes into your office and you run some labs, you find out that his cortisol is dysregulated and very high and this is eating up his hippocampus (the portion of the brain responsible for short term memory), as well as his supply of pregnenolone, the precursor to most steroid hormones in the body. You also find out that his testosterone is borderline low at 364 ng/dL, although his LH comes back in the middle of the normal range meaning that his body has become acclimated to this new sup-optimal state (with testosterone this low the brain should literally be screaming to the testicles to produce more testosterone – how it screams is LH). You know that this patient needs stress management, less exercise, and far more sleep, which is the most anabolic activity we can take part in, once those aspects are addressed if levels don’t normalize one may possibly need to jump start the pituitary gland which secretes LH as well as look deeper into why the cortisol may be dysregulated.
92% of all Americans have some type of cortisol dysregulation per Dr. Gottfried.
The number of men on testosterone therapy has quadrupled since the year 2000.
65% of Americans get 7 or less hours of sleep per night.
3. A post-menopausal female weight loss client has been training very hard for 9 months but can’t get results no matter what she tries or how little she makes herself eat. She is a stay at home mom with a million places to go all at once. She has 1 child in middle school and another just starting high school. She has intense sugar craving and has trouble sleeping through the night, she has also noticed that her eyebrows are thinning. She consistently has a lot of GI discomfort and finds whenever she does eat a higher carb meal she gets bloated but she doesn’t like to talk about it.
She comes into your office and tests positive for a SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) breathe test as well as H pylori. Her cortisol rhythm is highly dysregulated, and her hemoglobin A1C is elevated above the functional range. You also find a positive test for TPO antibodies against her own thyroid.
135 million Americans have some kind of GI infection and some estimate it to be much higher at 80-90% of the population.
50% over the age of 60 have H Pylori, which is a bacterial infection of the stomach that causes a reduction in acidity which can lead to the subsequent migration of bacteria from the large intestine into the small intestine.
Over 10 million women have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
50% of Hispanics and 33% of Caucasians will become diabetic in their lifetimes and more than 25% of Americans are currently pre-diabetic.
If you are thinking, why is he talking about me? I made every one of those examples up off the top of my head. They are common themes we see, but fictitious nonetheless. Now if you are a trainer, the crazy part is that you could be doing the most sound and evidence based work under the sun, but without getting physiology dialed in you are eventually going to be bashing your head against the wall and blaming your client for not following your rules, even though they are or just physiologically can’t do it.
I have constantly searched for these types of answers and a way to explain them in a way that doesn’t lay blame but instead motivates and inspires. As strength coaches, personal trainers, people who lift and eat vegetables, whatever you want to call us, we are the professionals that touch the most people. We are the gatekeepers. Get people to the right place, get people quality labs and quality interpretation and your job will become so much easier. You are not alone. You can’t be.
If you are looking for a Functional Medicine Doc in Austin, just ask me for a recommendation. I am happy to help and/or send an introduction. If you are in another city head to the Institute for Functional Medicine’s website and search for practitioners, or just click here. If you want to learn more about how we blend Functional Medicine into our on-boarding and evaluation process please click here for more information on the Optimizing Athleticism: The Health and Performance Solution seminar August 8th and 9th in Austin, TX.
P.S. and doing the right thing can be extremely rewarding
By: Ben House PhD Candidate, FDN, fNMT
For instance, I sent the message below to a client who is highly athletic and been with us for about a month, in which we have made huge strides.
“My value add will likely diminish for you when I teach you all the lifts and get you moving really well consistently. There are always little tweaks that we can find, but you are self-motivated and smart sooo programming may be all that is needed after we accomplish what we set out to from the beginning.”
This may strike some as odd, why would I tell a client they may not need me for more in-person training?
- We are expensive and that is unlikely to change any time soon.
- It is the right thing to do.
This client sought me ought for a specific reason which we will have fully addressed in two months time. My job is not to sign this person up for lifetime training, it is to get them doing what they love to do better, more confidently, and most definitely without pain. Now if that thing they love to do is training with me – great. If it isn’t, carry on and come back when you need further insight.
This ideology of doing the right thing seems to be lost in this snowballing business of health and fitness. I get it, people have bills to pay and lights to keep on, but I have found if you do the right thing it tends to come back around, especially in a field that tries to up-sell every chance it gets.
Shit, we tell potential clients they can only buy a month of training because we don’t know if it is going to be a good fit. They have to prove that they can live up to what we ask them to do. Yet, for some of our clients I have zero hesitation signing them up for three months because they desperately need that face to face interaction/direction. We work well together and they value what we do. I always try to contemplate – is this the best choice for this particular client and am I the best professional to help them? If the answer is no, then I take a good hard look at what is the best course of action and who or what might be a better fit.
Davis and I do a lot of things that don’t make sense financially and go against the fitness grain. We can do this because we aren’t married to a giant facility. We eval athletes for free for other trainers. We have been known to monitor athletes for pennies. We nearly always agree to get on phone calls with other coaches or young people who may want to ask us about what we do or how we do it. We got into this industry to help people and collaborate and god damnit that is what we are going to do
….and here comes the sales pitch…kind of
We created this upcoming seminar – Optimizing Athleticism: The Health Performance Solution (August 8th and 9th) and it is going to be a horrendously good time. I can see it already. It will be a ton of effort, but it will blow people’s minds.
We will make zero dollars on this seminar. It will all go to putting it on. From a monetary standpoint we would be better off selling protein shakes on the street corner.
Maybe that is really stupid, but I desperately wanted to get Dr. Rakowski in front of our network of coaches and functional medicine practitioners here in Austin because I know his message and its delivery are so strong. Every functional medicine seminar I go to, I chat with people about what I do and inevitably someone always asks, “Oh have you heard of Dr. Rakowski?!!” He is that well known in the field and the practical tips and tricks regarding heavy health and performance concepts that you are going to take away from this two day seminar will be unlike anything out there.
So when you register, know that you are paying $295 to learn how to do the right thing by your clients, friends, and family. Know that we are putting this on so that we as a unit can help transition this industry from diet and exercise peddlers to citizen scientists, healers, and listeners who act with both integrity and knowledge, a ruthless combination.
By: Ben House PhD Candidate, FDN, fNMT
Tony Gentilcore has some fantastic posts about PRI (Postural Restoration Institute), as well as coming out the other end of the PRI tunnel as a strength and conditioning coach. I would highly suggest reading them here, here, and especially f$cking here. I’ve been into breathing for about 4 years (there is a joke there, but I won’t take it).
Breathing mechanics peaked my interest when I saw that the best movers looked relatively at ease and tended to breathe through their belly under load. I then went to a workshop by Jim Laird and I knew I was missing a big piece of this breathing, inner ab, pelvis, shoulder girdle, conundrum, so I dug deep into PRI for over a year (I’m still digging and this is not a long time by any means, PRI has been around since the 70s, and breathing well forever), taking all the courses and regularly shadowing one of the best PRI PTs Steve Cuddy.
Also, we have had the opportunity to run about 200 evals on athletes utilizing a combination of PRI, Gary Gray, and FMS measurements. Some PRI heavy folks will scream, “why do you need anything else!” Well, we just like to be absolutely certain and tell the story to the client as best we can and also get them back on the ground to look at what happens up and down the chain. What we saw were tons of similar compensations across the board that correlated to the sport in question. We tweaked most of our warm-ups to include a lot of breathing “add-ons”.
We also consistently added in more lateral work. But the breaking point for us came when we started looking outside the PRI box, while still maintaining a PRI mindset into other methodologies that address breathing and physical capabilities. Believe it or not PRI did not invent breathing and you can see its foot print in nearly every martial arts practice, yoga, buddhism, and even Russian weight lifting and kettlebell methodologies.
PRI has done a fantastic job of highlighting the inherent asymmetries of the human body and has built a community as well as a vocabulary to express different positions and compensations (some hate this inclusive cultish aspect and I understand that view). But, as strength coaches we have to remember that PRI is based in the physical therapy world and at times it can be a little too fuffy to get the job done in the weight room and at other times we may need to just stop tinkering and accept and be an active bystander to genetic superiority.
To my knowledge the picture above is the peak of the PRI abdominal exercise progression. A 1 arm plank in the pushup position or a modified belly lift. Granted this will take folks a while to do well. This exercise together with the appropriate regressions are incredibly fruitful and you can make it much harder with a balloon, but this exercise alone is not going to allow you to discard your weight belt and just rely on exhalation and tension to lift heavy loads.
For that, you need well…strength and conditioning methodologies and the viewpoint that every exercise you do is an ab exercise. I believe PRI would support this view as long as the fundamentals were done and progressed properly. For more on these “other” methodologies every strength coach should buy HardStyle Abs by Pavel Tsatsouline, its a steal at $2.99 on Amazon. Yes, it has a horrible Men’s Healthy title, but after taking the PRI courses it makes their inner ab exercises look like pre-kinder finger painting.
Now don’t go nuts and start jack-hanmering all your clients with Hardstyle everything, many, if not all people need to rebuild breathing patterns and only require child’s play done incredibly well, but some of Pavel’s exercises may allow you to get breathing/ PRI voodoo buy-in with your higher level athletes because they wont be able to do something as simple and deadly as a hanging leg raise with a forced exhalation whole maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt.
The last point is one that has come up in multiple conversations with my fellow strength coach at the University of Denver, Pat Estes and that is that maybe it is not the best idea to be blanket tinkering with the positions of the best of the best athletes, those 1% of 1% adapters. Maybe the reason they are the best of the best is that they are really successful in that pattern.
AKA if you have to put someone in a PEC (overextended) pattern to sprint well, but the best of the best train and play in this over extended PEC pattern, what gives? Thus, instead of tinkering with their positions and becoming attached to getting all athletes to some imaginary neutrality that their sport may inherently pull them out of, maybe we can work to bulletproof them in the pattern predicated by their sport utilizing all our fancy asymmetrical PRI concepts, as well as other recovery methodologies to keep them uninjured. Some things just have side effects.
If you like to drive your car fast you are going to have to replace your tires and breaks, check the alignment, and not be retarded.
“This (PRI) stuff IS important, and it definitely has its place in the grand scheme of things – ESPECIALLY if someone is in pain.”
– Tony Gentilcore
This is just an idea and a conversation. I love the PRI methodologies and Drs Hruska, Thomsen, Anderson, and Cantrell have taught me a huge amount, but I don’t believe we have this whole aspect of the integration of PRI and Sport figured out yet, and if we look around the world there are tons of great movers who have no idea what the hell PRI stands for and that to me provides a lot of evidence that there are many ways to skin this cat and also that not individualizing your PRI strategies and having a larger view could cause more harm than good – like anything a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous, especially in the weight room.
By: Ben House PhD Candidate, FDN, fNMT