Archives for November 2013

Audio Lectures for Your Continuing Education

It’s been over a year since we went live with the site, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. There are currently 194 audio and video learning opportunities on the site, 16 of which are mine. If you haven’t heard these yet, here’s the list (some free), with a few more in the hopper.


Revisiting Athletic Body In Balance
What’s The Big Deal About The Toe Touch?
The Three Rs
Isolation, It’s Totally Natural
Duke University Student Q&A
Movement Principles Talk, CK-FMS
IFOMPT Keynote Address
Hat Tip to Professor Janda, with Craig Liebenson
Schooling Vs Education
VCU School of Physical Therapy
Developing A Movement Philosophy
Self-Limiting Exercise
Gray Cook with Craig Liebenson
Gray Cook with Joe Heiler
Myths & Misunderstandings About The FMS & SFMA
Dry Needling With Edo Zylstra

Fit to Serve

As often occurs in the fall, I fly in late on a Saturday night after teaching a workshop with Lee. It’s a scramble, but Sunday morning, I’m sitting in church because the rest of my family’s there, but also because my dad’s the guy standing at the front of the church. My dad’s a preacher, if you didn’t know.

photoThis Sunday there was a responsive reading at the beginning of the service because it was Veteran’s Sunday. A very powerful reading was in our church bulletin, and the service was wrapped around that. I want to share that with you.

It was very timely for me to see Dr. Ed Thomas’s new video this morning. The video, entitled Fit to Serve, is something I think everyone needs to watch, and then simply think about. If it compels you to take action in some way, that’s fine, but at least just think about it. We owe our veterans and we owe our wounded warriors that much consideration.

ed-thomasIt never ceases to amaze me when I talk with Ed Thomas, or get to hear him narrate some unbelievably profound visual images. He’s a wordsmith in the way he communicates a message. What we have in Dr. Thomas is a physical educator, someone who took physical education to the doctoral level.

This is not a guy who chose physical education, teaching and coaching so he could take summers off. This is someone who realized his way to better humanity is in physical culture, in the physical arts, and in physical development.

I think about how our country would take action if we saw the illiteracy all of the sudden just stay on an decline. What would we’d do if we had children who couldn’t do simple math in their heads? The actions our government would take if we couldn’t read or intelligently work with numbers would be immediate, and all-encompassing.

military squatYet we’ve had a physical decline in our fitness and culture for quite some time.

obstacle-climbEd captures this by looking in the petri dish of the US military. Everything that’s happening in our military—or was happening in our military—is literally a sign of the times, and is just a picture of our overall population.

When we post fitness articles and interviews and videos on the internet, let’s be honest: Most people are interested in those because of a physical aesthetic they’re trying to achieve or an athletic goal they’re trying to bring about.

But when we talk about fitness, when we talk about fire fighters or the military, the police or some other public service like first responders, these are people who sacrifice their lives, their health and sometimes their fitness to perform  a service.

Those of us who get the opportunity to train those people should feel an extra degree of connection to this. Every one of us can do something to foster the integrity of physical culture, not just in the military or first responders, but all the way to the school system.

As you watch Ed’s video, and as you review other fitness or athletic development articles, consider this: How much of this information is making it into the military, or into our 7th grade PE classes?

This is where I think our true physical fitness model must be present and demonstrate effectiveness in the way we prepare people to defend our values, and in the way we decide to grow our children. I think Ed Thomas speaks intelligently to both those.

Now I’m going to embed some other videos from this brilliant man, who has served us both as a veteran and continues to serve us with his insight today.

Click here if using iPhone, iPad, or you cannot see the video player

Isolation vs Movement Patterns

I have no real animosity toward isolation exercises, but in my past I found many people tried to use an isolation exercise to enhance a movement pattern. When I investigated why they picked a particular muscle group, let’s say the quads to address a fault where the trunk is wavering back and forth in the lunge, people often make a few assumptions. They automatically think it’s the front quad, that there’s no strength there.

gray-half-kneel We could do some other assessments or some other movements and show that it could be trunk control. It could be an ankle awareness problem. Maybe the person had multiple sprained ankles and just doesn’t have a lot of sensory information. We might need to train that first. Isolation in many cases follows an assumption of what we think is kinesiology.

Sometimes we see somebody who has a quad that’s two inches smaller on one side than the other. The hamstring seems to have adequate strength. There’s nothing wrong with the calf, but there had been an injury. The person learned how to move around without that quadriceps, and now when trying to do some form of squatting or lunging, it’s done without the quad.

There’s an actual medical term for this called ‘quad avoidance syndrome.’ But there are many other areas in the body we can selectively stop using if things haven’t been correctly managed after an injury.

In the instance above, there’s nothing else in the lunge pattern that needs to be trained. The person needs to reconnect the quad with the body map in the brain. We may actually start with some good ol’ knee extension exercises. Those knee extension machines are becoming more and more rare, but in this instance it would have a place.

The problem is that you have to be in a position to really test muscle weakness if you’re going to isolate. In this situation, isolating the quad would probably benefit the whole movement pattern. If you’ve had surgery, there’s a good chance if you’re my patient I may have to isolate something in your rehabilitation process.

We may also see a particular muscle group is deficient. When we look at function, everything else looks good. In that instance, it would be okay to isolate, but don’t assume isolation alone will make a movement pattern good.

long-beach-alwyn-cosgrove Remember, you have an excellent way to check it—just do some type of movement screening or look at the pattern after you’ve done a cycle of strengthening on that body part. You may have made it stronger, but that doesn’t mean it’s reintegrated into the map. Alwyn Cosgrove covers this well in our new Exercise Program DVD.

Now let’s talk about body sculpting for a minute. Maybe we have areas we’d like to see develop, and we have other areas that don’t seem to need a lot of work. For a lot of people, that means wanting to sculpt the body in a different way.

Here’s an interesting point: About 75% of the time, the worst movement patterns run right in line with the deficiencies we see in symmetry and development.

I worked with a lot of bodybuilders early in my career and it used to blow me away to discover the muscles they had the hardest time developing were also prime movers of patterns they didn’t do well.

I can spend time helping you re-pattern, and you can actually do something a little more functional and hit more muscle groups. Unless you’re at the elite level of bodybuilding, there’s a good chance we’re going to have greater gains working this movement-pattern deficiency.

Even in the extreme circumstances of wanting to develop a body part, the only way I’m going to agree with only doing isolation is if your movement screen is fairly clean and you have no movement deficiency.

We should still follow that movement map, and only after it’s clean would we attack a deficiency with specific isolation.

When we take a functional approach and really attack movement deficiencies with movement corrections, I would expect all kinds of new soreness you’ve never had because certain movement patterns were sort of turned off. They have the parking brake on a movement pattern.

Opening up movement patterns first changes everything. Once that muscle is activated, let’s go ahead and put it on isolation.

If you’re really intense on physique development, having somebody run a movement screen every two or three months when you’re training hard is not just this nice little test. It’s a GPS. It’ll point you in your next direction.

My big problem with isolation is not isolation. It’s the assumption that isolation will change movement without adequately checking strength to see if it’s only a single group problem, and without revisiting some type of movement map to see if it really did change something.

Isolation is an excellent tool to have. We just can’t lay assumptions on it.
For more on Gray’s thoughts about the pros and cons of isolation,
check out his talk,
Isolation: It’s Totally Natural.