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