Why T4TG Stuff Works

Over the last I’d say 12-18 months, one of the biggest impact/change/addition to my thinking of training is the tri-planar movement approach that I have learned from Todd Wright and T4TG.Without a lot of song and dance, here’s why I think the 87.5% of the system that I use works and has had so much traction in the movement, medball, and metabolic training that I now believe in and use for myself and for others. Notice I don’t believe in everything. I think there’s some pieces that just go too far in terms of duplicating inefficient movement in training just because it happens in “function” or real-life daily or athletic situations. I think that’s a huge mistake.

So there is a strong lesson that always prevails that we can accept or reject bits and pieces of excellent messages and still strongly honor the overall intent. There’s some level of backhandedness to this line of thought, but the fact of the matter is that I was incredibly moved by the learning and acceptance of what I was shown. The T4TG mentorship in Austin is something everyone should attend.

1. The stuff is downright athletic.
The very first time I was coached in the matrix patterns, I was in Austin for a Physical Medicine conference, and I was training in khakis and a polo shirt. The line I remember the most was Todd saying, “Charlie moves well for a big guy.” Add that to the list of the many things Todd is correct about. I do move well…………in my lower half at least.
Another line that I remember the most was at one point when I stopped or finished one of the drills. I stood like Sonic the Hedgehog for a moment, and I was like, “This is teaching athleticism.”

I may be able to do some things, but I'm no Clifton Harski swinging on vines and what not.

I felt the instructions with built in progressions that demanded the body to move athletically. I think most of us in some way would say you can’t really teach athleticism. I’m sure there’s pieces that we can all modulate, but at some point, there are physical gifts that make some of use better than others. I really think drilling this style of movement training can fill in some blanks. Drilling, like mindless repetitions, that also drives other pieces of the puzzle like mobility and stability and joint centration.
I see and feel real life positions that I think we are always caught in during movement; we just don’t rep them out or think about them all the time.
I just think if there is a way to somehow teach something like TO jumping backwards off 1 foot and catching a pass with 1 hand reaching 2 feet behind his body, this is it. If there is a way to teach stability outside of neutral of the mobile ankles, I think this is it.

Terrell Owens, Adirodack Wildcats, Summer 2003

2. It drives the Joint by Joint.
Due in no small part to watching the magic of DNS right in front of my face for the last few years, I would say we do not have body parts. We have a body.
We do not have body systems. We have a body.
Everything is connected. Physiological body systems are all interconnected, and even the slightest lack of integrity in any one joint can affect the nervous system at rest and the musculoskeletal system during movement. It all matters, all the time, whether we feel it or not. I think it all tracks back to the Autonomic Nervous System and measures of preparedness or recovery.
So when coached appropriately and not allowing huge momentum to take us out of the ideal joint positions of centration, these T4TG methods of movement all drive the joint by joint via the whole body’s linkage and patterns.
The more creative the variables are managed the more unique interactions all of the joints can sustain.
Now make no mistake about it. You can coach this stuff with momentum and loads that take your body into awful, terribly flexed, rotated, and sheared positions. This is a mistake.
What holds gravity to me is that when you develop deeper excursions of the ankles, hips, t-spine, and shoulders, the core will stabilize reflexively and allow for free and stable movement. The choices you make can drive the joint by joint for more mobility, stability, or more performance qualities. It just depends on you coach it. If you coach through the biomechanical stiffness that the Joint by Joint champions, you are feeding the entire body very valuable proprioception, and you’ll be doing in all 3 planes and with literally infinite combinations.
Forcing reactions of muscles is a very authentic approach to developing and harnessing movement. This approach gets that done with rehab and training goals.

I don't even know what this is showing. Well, I do, but I don't want to admit it.

3. Crossing midline
Good, bad, or indifferent, this triplanar approach to training has gotten a lot of traction over the last few decades, and many folks swear by it.
Well aside from the above 2 tenets above that lend to results, I think there is a more abstract tenet that is an enormous piece to success with these moves. Many of the movements in the frontal and transverse planes involve the arm or leg crossing midline, which has a far more powerful impact than the athleticism it demonstrates or its potential biomechanical integrity.
Please consider that upon birth, we actually have 2 separate brains, a right brain and left brain. The corpus collosum, in a lay way, is the bundle neural fibers that connect the right and left brains. We know that many nerve tracts cross in different parts of the brain or the spinal cord. Sometimes control from or injury to one side affects the other side. This neural bundle, the corpus collosum, does not fully develop and transmit signals until around 6 weeks of age. Until that point, we actually have 2 brains.
So what does all this have to do with crossing our legs in skipping sideways in a circle?

Well, for the same reason the Diagonal patterns of the PNF methods yield rehabilitation and corrective goals, when we cross a limb, I think the brain “lights up” if you will. Positive feedforward neural flow streams across the corpus collosum, and motor patterns are regained, improved, or reinforced. There is a real reason why movement improves, and people feel better with the atypical sagittal and transverse plane patterns. That reason is that we are using more mature or lesser used motor units, ones that cross the corpus collosum, ones that tell our brain that we should continue to move like that. The brain responds with what I believe to be decreased sympathetic or protective tone, and we move freely.
This is how some of PNF works; it’s part of why Indian Clubs work; it’s why correctly performed chops and lifts work; it’s why Turkish Getups work. Crossing midline is a powerful neurological tool, and moving often with this approach I think has wild neural uptake and benefit.

Most practical PNF book I've seen. And it has segmental rolling.

4. Foot positions
Part of the messages that I’ve talked about in the past such as the Core Pendulum Theory and Joint Centration have a common foundation of appreciation. That foundation is the mechanoreceptors that lie in and around joints in muscles, tendons, ligaments, capsules, etc. are constantly having conversations with the brain. It’s like a monster GPS system that is always pinging back to the satellite non-stop. The satellite, the brain, then yields or pushes tone through the muscles of the body and grades levels of centration.
Well, each foot has 26 bones that are often bound into compensated, constricted, or even locked positions through all of our daily and athletic acitivies. When we can add positive input, good stresses of mobility and stability as referenced by the Joint by Joint, I think, similar to crossing midline, there is a wealth of neurological uptake.
When we move sideways, we add different exteroceptive input to the lateral heel, the 5th metatarsal, the cuboid. There is a new and different demand to stabilize the midfoot, especially if we are managing these movements in an unsupported shoe or barefoot. If the challenges are healthy, the relative slack and tension of the capsules and long flexor tendons not only drive athletic movement and biomechanics, but also feed the brain “candy” in terms of proprioceptive input.
Aside from the neural mechanism, the different transient positions of the foot will demand similarly unique transient patterns all the way through the body. I see this as ideal for open-loop movement training, static and dynamic, but there is a fine line that should not be crossed into strength training.  Don’t put the foot or any part of the body in dumb positions with load.
With this mechanical approach also comes risk of form closure/bony approximation for stability through the foot which then degenerates biomechancis, and reverses neural flow to high tone for protection and rejection. So there’s a ton of good things that moving in multi-planes can do for the foot, but it’s not a guarantee that it’s right most ideal input, and just bouncing around like a jumping bean may not be the best answer for movement skills.

They work because they let your foot act like a foot, not this forefoot striking business.

5. Metabolic Demands
My recent thinking of cardiovascular (probably not even the best word to describe it) training or conditioning really relies a lot on heart rate. Testing and then programming intensities that meet the appropriate heart rate demands forces proper variables including exercise selection. My article which was moved by reading Joel Jamieson’s book gives plenty of examples, but now with the literally infinite options that the T4TG program provides, you have even more.
Heart rate may not only graded by the movement and intensity, but also the mental challenge to organize the movement. That also is clearly a stress that has to be integrated. We can now perhaps get a higher or lower heart rate response with repetitive movement by asking for an atypical pattern or combining the different movements of the limbs or implements.
Creating that organization can be stressful and adapted for in a general way. There are going to be situations where we get more with less, and there will be situations where we can continue to push good movement variability as long as the skills being chosen are centrally located in the individual’s “movement box.” This may be a place where we get better at what we’re good at, and corrective stuff or warmup is where we get better at what we’re not good at.

6. Principle-Based Categories
The principles of moving in 3 planes can be applied to many of the stages of a functionally dense program. Legit strength training is not one of them. I almost think of the applications lending more towards specific and general stiffness changes and open-loop training such as locomotion, med ball throws, and movement- or landing-based plyometrics.
Static Mobility – Multi-planar positions using the floor to fix the lower half, and a bar or cage to fix the upper half. The off-arm, the neck, or breathing can be used to challenge the position. This is using an artificial fixed point to drive mobility.

Early extension and reverse spine on the left. I'm just saying.

Dynamic Mobility – One half is fixed, and the other half is moving through a plane.
General Warmup – Up and down, side to side, circles, squares, 8’s, T’s, game-specific patterning in all the different moves of walking, shuffling, skipping, and running
Airborne – All the combinations of squatting (off 2, land on 2), hopping (off 1, land on same), leaping (off 1, land on the other), jopping (off 1 or 2, landing on 2 or 1), combination of hurdles and boxes
Medball – Throwing with steps, lunges, airborne movements, and all combinations there of


7. It fits into the training system
In a full program of managing ideal human movement, improving specific or special patterns, and pushing general horsepower, using what many of us have learned from Todd, there is huge mileage in the 2nd category. There is also a very useful bridge between the general movements that are the basis for everything that comes above it. Looking at complex and dynamic or multi-planar movements without a general more static and ground-based appraisal is a terrible mistake because errors in the more mature patterns may or may not be from deficient base.
But this doesn’t devalue the huge money that is in training these movements in the full program. We have useful part to whole replication of terminal movements, enormous movement variability, neurological inputs, and it’s just straight fun.


Fun is fun.
Effective is effective.
Form is everything.
This is all why I think it works.

  • October 21, 2011

Leave a Reply 4 comments

Donald Berry Reply

Is it an Osteoblast? Don’t leave me hangin?

Charlie Reply


raetherj Reply

I am a huge fan of Todd’s as well Charlie and remember the first time that I saw him present his matrix’s and progressions. Fantastic stuff. Thanks for sharing this, enjoyed reading it and provoking thought in my own programming.

Clifton Reply

Ah, we do so much of what you wrote about! Love seeing/reading experts as yourself continually explain in new ways why what we do works! And, sonic used to be one of my favorite video games, ha.

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