This was a cool weekend. I had a lot of fun.
Almost a year later after moving to North Carolina and taking this job, my life is still like balancing on the top of a triangle. Those that are closest to me know that this job that I have taken has been so crazy so far that I have either used or considered nearly every social, personal, inter-personal, intra-personal, and self-help tool that I have been able to get my hands on. We’ll see if it works, but my wonderful skills of finding a dark cloud in a silver lining still keep coming through. To be quite honest, there are days when the wind blows, and it smells like poop, but there a lot of days when the wind blows, and it smells like fresh flowers. Life isn’t so bad, right? This weekend was one of the times when the wind blew, and it smelled like flowers.
Many months ago, Art Horne asked me to be one of the keynote speakers at his yearly event @ Northeastern. It has had a few names through its incarnations, but the one consistent piece is his ability to wrangle a lineup of speakers that at worst is an All-Star team. It’s probably more like a Hall of Fame lineup this year. When you see the lineups and the diversity of folks that Art and Daniel Boothby have been able to bring in over the last 3 years, it’s quite remarkable and testament to however he’s running this event. I think his secret, which isn’t really much of a secret, is that he just picks people he wants to listen to so he doesn’t have to travel around. It’s like training and rehab continuing education’s version of Fantasy Baseball.
This year’s conference was called Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. Now I’m not much of a giant. I’m legit 5’4.5”, measured out officially in San Antonio’s training room when KJ and I gave in to the players demand to see who was taller. To have been asked somehow to be a Keynote speaker with Thomas Myers, Shirley Sahrmann, and Clare Frank still blows my mind. How in the hell did I get here? I’m on their level? No way. These are people that I have and will continue to spend a lot of money to sit in the last row and just listen to. I do what they say, well not totally, but pretty much yeah…..you know what I mean with that whole Dupont line that I am still totally embarrassed that I used in the DVD. Blame it on the Redline.
Well, based on the struggles that I’ve dealt with this year, I’ve become very spiritual, and I’ve tried to be very humble. Covey says to build up emotional reserve. Hey, I’m listening. I’m trying. I probably fail more than I should at being humble in some people’s eyes, but the recognition that I have received in however long this ride has taken off is still odd to me. I mean I am using strategies on how to talk to people that I learned in Player Programs back in the NBDL. It’s bizarre. What I do know am no Giant in our profession. I love playing the WWE character when I speak, and it’s a lot of fun, and I think it works to make people think and reinvent. It’s my way of teaching, which is really love that I get to do things like this.
This was a good weekend.
My flight Thursday had me going from Wilmington to Philly to Boston. I had a typical delay out of Philly since they only have 2 runways. When there is one backup, the whole day is shot in Philly. There might be a couple time where AI or Sam showed up late to the plane, and it cost us hours sitting there on a chartered plane where every seat is at least 1st class, and there is like unlimited food. Oh, it was miserable.
It’s a little different on USAir in a window seat, and a the pilot comes on and says, “Oh, we’re ready to go, aaaaaaaaaand we’re number 20 on the runway for takeoff.” Dude, don’t tell me we’re #20. Tell me #8 or #9, but not 20. It’s like on the way up to Lake George, there’s a sign that says you’re like 345 miles out of Montreal. I think there’s a lot of people going elsewhere at that point other than Montreal. They can wait a little bit to tease you on how long you have to wait.
The wheels for Thursday belonged to Sam Leahey, and he, Chris DuBois, and Clare Frank waited patiently for me to arrive, and we headed up to Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning. We had planned the visit to see Coach Boyle and Eric Cressey for Thursday, and Coach was first.
When you come in from 90, and you don’t really know how to get to the other side of the industrial park to find food, all you have available is Wendy’s and a diner. I was up since 230am, and Clare and Chris were both off red eyes from the West Coast. We were not in a hunger mood to be discriminatory, and I vetoed Wendy’s. The diner was pleasant enough, and I tried my best order something indigenous to the New England area. I sensed the waitress was mildly irritated by our questions, particularly mine. “Do you have Mountain Dew? No? Okay, I’ll have water.”
On the way in, we were quite sure we were going the right direction as we passed Adrienne Norris finishing her run. When we got there, she showed up around as we waited for everybody to finish up and fall in the for the staff meeting. Clare, Chris, and I milled around MBSC, and obviously it’s very impressive. The most impressive thing to me though is that the equipment and layout complements the methodology. This is I think the key to getting in as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. It’s a very conveyor belt-laden approach where you move along and around the gym being followed by the next group that is doing what you just did. The equipment setup provides natural barriers, but empty, it’s just a big square warehouse. It’s a model to follow to efficiently get in groups.
I really didn’t know what Coach wanted me to talk about exactly, but he did mention some of the things I’ve written about in terms of the packed neck and straight leg raise techniques. We plugged up the computer, and I think I wound up clicking the slides once. I do better when it’s just Q&A, and I can just go off on tangents. We wound up talking mostly about the neck, which carries the principles that I am talking about this summer in my talks, “Trying to Define the Core.”
Some key points that I can recall, and you can see the 60+ minute segment on BodyByBoyle.com. If I can get the clip, I will try to figure out how we can do some kind of PPV if we can.
–Some of the spots in the workout that came out as the best places to bring the packed neck into coaching is not the DL and squat. I’ve said before that big lifters have lifts go down because it’s a new engram, and it’s challenging to stay connected. But with younger or novice lifters, it jumps numbers through the roof. Here we suggested that quadruped core work, bridging, sled work, moves that are slower and don’t involve an upper body level change. The challenge to the keeping the neck is the urge to maintain vestibular input as your chest changes levels. I agree that this probably isn’t the place to learn this technique.
–Your hands are you feet in the pushup. Clare put a band around Coach’s arms during the pushup, and he immediately felt it much easier. I mentioned I’ve gotten away from the banded RNT and have been using the stimulation zones of the radial head and medial epicondyle to load into and create a reaction to pack the shoulders into centration during the push-up. Baby learns to move and earns stability because Baby makes mistakes by falling into it’s mobility. When their interest in the environment drives their uprighting and verticalization, those mistakes correct naturally and reflexively. This is why we need to look at the NDT positions, not just for rehab, but for lifting very heavy things.
–Think about where your neck would have to be if you were to DL a bar with just your neck. Imagine you have a chain hanging out of your neck, and it of the exact length from your chin to the bar. If you looked up, the bar would fall out of the hook at the end of the chain. I don’t have any recent video of me DL’ing, but I literally lock my neck in as if I were hooking a chain around the bar and I pull with my whole body including the neck.
–I was asked why do OL coaches say I’m full of sh–? I think the answer is that when we look for OL excellence, most, if not all of the teachers are Olympic Lifting coaches for the sake of Olympic Lifting. They are trying to coach Gold Medalists. By no accident, because OLifting is a very good thing to do, it translates to RFD. But whereas these coaches have found excellent ways to put more wheels on the bar and win medals, my suggestion is that the stability gained with sticking your neck out and wearing those damn shoes is false but effective to hit big lifts. Well, I don’t care about big lifts. I care about transfer of as much power as possible with centration of all joints. This is how we keep the E-Brake off as much as possible and increase strength along with durability, which is no accident.
And when the RKC guys in Edmond, OK on July 22 try to do swings with a less than expert kettlebeller, they may very well find that there is a better way to keep the neck. More power with potentially less load and eliminating the brain’s emergency break on releasing neural flow to the phasic muscles that allows us to push and pull in the lift.
The last thing I want to mention, as I risk getting emotional again, is that Coach Boyle at one point during our stay there said he was proud of me. To have someone you look up to and can only hope to be as successful as, was not something I will forget.
From MBSC, we went to Eric Cressey’s facility. Now when you’re travelling, we’re all guilty of assuming the “general area” is a lot closer than it really is. Cressey’s place is not near Boston. With lame one-lane traffic, it was about an hour to get there.
Eric has quite a different model than Boyle’s aside from the fact that we were there during a prime training time vs. a staff meeting @ Boyle’s. Rather than have a coach or coach+intern(s) with a group, everybody relatively trains on their time, and coaches circulate the gym monitoring and intervening as necessary. I saw what I would consider a lot of experienced lifters. I mean you can just tell when somebody has deadlifted or thrown a medball more than twice before.
But another thing that is very similar to Boyle’s is the organization of the gym. Nobody was in anybody’s way including Clare taking video of me showing her what it looks like to squat with a Giant Cambered Squat Bar.
We didn’t talk as much shop as we did @ Boyle’s, but it’s been far long overdue for me to get up there and show my face. Like Coach Boyle, Eric has been instrumental on pushing my messages, and for this I am grateful.
That evening, there was a pre-conference get together at a local restaurant which amounted to catching up with folks and some meet and greet. I spent some time chatting with Thomas Myers, notably about the 1-day event we spoke at for Equinox back in October. The feedback was quite interesting in terms of expectations and deliverables, and we agreed, we would do things differently next time around.
It is always a pleasure to spend time with Mark Toomey, and I was introduced to Dr. John Dimuro, who I had heard much about from Toomey the week before in Carolina.
And I believe here at this very event began my search for a Redline XTreme, which is part and parcel for me getting up in front of the room.
The first talk Friday morning was Thomas Myers. As one of the Keynotes, he had I believe 2 hours for his first presentation. He also had a hands-on piece that proceeded this talk. I’ve seen Thomas speak quite a few times now over the last year, and it was quite an honor to share the stage with him several months ago. I don’t think there was anything new for me in terms of the information, but at least for still a little while, a lot of people are going to be hearing Thomas speak for the first time.
What amuses me is that Thomas continues to suggest that he “doesn’t know what the movement people do.” I think he knows quite a bit.
It’s still very hard though to be a non-manual therapist and get a lot of practical things out of his talks. The biggest key is that fascia matters, and it can explain a lot of potholes or plateaus in your training. At the manual therapy level, just as I felt last year, the cellular level histology really threatens a lot of traditional thought processes in terms of soft tissue mobilization and mobility training.
Here are the big take homes that you will hear from Thomas, and the cool part is that you are probably already doing many of these things in good programming. These principles are what you can do to incorporate the fascia’s positive adaptation into your training.
1. Whole Body Movements
2. Long Chain Movements
–Use the Anatomy Trains
–Force the issue that dead hang pull-ups, big hips during squats, pulls, and swings, full lockouts on presses with a packed shoulder, big strides during runs and sprints
3. Dynamic Pre-Stretch/Counter-Movements
–The local neurology is carried to the brain via the nerves in the fascia.
4. Vector Variation
–Move in all planes with 1-3
5. Proprioceptive Emphasis
–Feed the system, Don’t feed it crap.
6. Pauses bring hydration (45/15)
–Interval training is for the fascia. This is not a coincidence.
7. Know if you are an acrobat or a viking
8. Gentle Perseverance (18-24 months)
I can listen to Thomas Myers speak all day, and while I think many folks were not moved by his sociological bridges to his work, I very much enjoyed the analogies and challenges to see success in what we do in far and distant extrapolations.
The next talk that I attended was another 2 hour presentation with Mark Toomey and Dr. Dimuro. After having such an enlightening and motivating experience with Mark the week before in North Carolina, I asked Art for the opportunity to introduce these speakers as a way of thanking and honoring the message. I felt like I already knew what the talk was about before even hearing it because we had spoken so much about the week before. Couple that with the message of physicians knowing what they don’t know and trusting both medical and fitness professionals is the environment that I worked in when I was in NJ.
The fact that Dr. Dimuro regularly refers his appropriate Pain Management patients to Mark, who is not a medical professional, says a lot in terms of confidence and foresight. My #1 referral for training in NJ was Thomas Phillips and Steve Pucciarelli @ Fit For Life in Marlboro. Neither are PTs. The degree you have has nothing to do with what you know or how skilled you are. If you have the skills to pay the bills, you deserve the right to help people. Mark and Dr. Dimuro are demonstrating this, and it is going to have to be this way before too long as sorry garbage physicians, PTs and Chiros continue to ruin the rehabilitation reimbursement landscape.
The most eventful note from lunch was that I had not yet found a Redline for my talk the next day. The grocery store @ Northeastern did not have it. This is my quest.
I first met Clare Frank about 2 years ago at my first DNS course. I had known of her work for some time but never found the fit to attend her Janda Approach course. She is a brilliant teacher and now a valued friend and mentor. Of the other keynote speakers, I am probably most similar to Clare in big rocks and through process. But unlike Clare, she has a whole lot to choose from. She is fellowship-level trained in Sahrmann’s work, Keiser-Permanente, Janda, and DNS. Dare I say, the Janda and DNS approaches are the paramount messages she pushes through. I will say I beam greatly when she has confirmation of a representation I made of Janda or Kolar. She and Craig Liebenson are my mentors into that world, and I hope to soon bring these methods to a clearer place under Gray’s system of standardization.
Just a few days ago (writing this has taken some time), we took a gentleman’s Shoulder Mobility over an inch just from Reflexive Stimulation in the Reflexive Creeping position.
Clare’s talk was the big bullets of joint centration, the neuromuscular control of all of the body through movement, and the value of developmental kinesiology.
Her hands-on focused on Janda’s message of using cheap and handy tools like bands to engage the abdominal chains. It’s interesting that Janda’s chains look strikingly similar to Thomas Myers’ Meridians like the Spiral Line. We played around quite a bit with what has been popularized by the Lakers’ PT, Alex McKechnie, in terms of creating the PNF diagonals through the very first PNF principle, resistance. Again, the list of muscles that require “activation” should be very similar to the list of muscles engaged in these patterns.
The evening was capped again with another fine event that included speakers and attendees. I spent most of my time sharing dinner with Clare, Shirley Sahrmann, Mark Toomey, Chris DuBois, and Josh Ford from Canada. I’m still shaking my head at being at the cool kids’ table and them asking me questions. <shaking my head> Shirley Sahrmann is asking me questions? Wow.
After eating, I switched over to spend some time with Kevin Kneeld and his staff talking about so much different stuff I can’t even remember.
Saturday morning, Chris and I skipped the first talk and sat down for a decent breakfast. Chris decided to move on from working with me at my current job, which I ultimately can’t blame him. As of the few experienced and selfless people that we were handed as rehab and S&C staff, I can’t blame him for choosing to move on, aside from the fact that he was semi-commuting from Oregon to southern California. Chris has become a good friend, and the work he is doing in Oregon is really quite a step above the norm.
The first talk Saturday morning I wound up going to was Dr. Sahrmann’s hands-on. Similar to Thomas Myers, the concepts she was talking about are not new to those familiar with her work. You’ll note above that many of the take homes to ensure you are training the fascia properly are things you are already doing. Basically, the more smart people you listen to, the more you will find both the systems and the methods are more the same than different. She knocked out a young lady’s back pain with her methods, basically blocking the pelvis to abolish pain on extension. Was it McKenzie? Was it MET? Was it Mulligan? Was it Sahrmann? The fact of the matter is that there are enough common threads of the great ones that all come back to very similar places. It was indicator movements
Now without a doubt, there is good, better, and best, and I have never been close to Sahrmann’s evaluation or program design. I always felt the FMS and SFMA were much easier and quicker and linked up to aggressive training much faster. I’ve also said before that I was a Sahrmann guy long before I was a Gray Cook guy. The first 6 chapters of Sahrmann’s first book are still Biblical as far as I’m concerned. My biggest departure from her work is simply a longer route to traverse linkage of the whole body. Sahrmann can go lower body to lower back and upper body to lower back, but it basically takes double time to go lower body to upper body.
Continuing to discuss her lecture, which was after the Cal Dietz lecture that came in between, something many folks don’t know about Sahrmann is that her PhD is Cellular Biology. Just like it moves me from Myers, I am so intrigued by the histology and cellular biology, the true adaptations of what we do. I basically don’t know much about it, but in terms of truly understanding stretching and mobility, the histology is crucial. Sahrmann gets into the constituency of muscle that leads to stiffness, which in her one word keys into the 2 words of mobility and stability.
Something to consider though in how the cells react, adapt, and lead to stiffness is the fascia’s interplay. If cells of the muscle are not efficiently reactive, or the fascia is bound down, or both sensory reception is going to be fouled up. I don’t know that Sahrmann gets into this as much as I think she should. I can’t believe I just said that, me questioning Sahrmann, but anyway. In my presentation, I also discussed what I call Functional Stiffness, which places blame on multiple categories of tissues or nociception that can gauge temporary or long-term stiffness. Mobility and Stability are more than just muscle.
As a pioneer in addressing FAI, she had some wonderful slides that really clicked things home for me. To see exactly the difference between Cam and Pincer lesions in the hip and how certain movement provokes the tear really demonstrates why some people just shouldn’t be doing some things. A Cam lesion can be from a femoral head that is too large or a neck that is too thick. Movement is blocked, and crashes. The Pincer lesion is from a uniquely-shaped acetabulum or a femoral head that is just too small. It wobbles around too much, and the overhang of the socket causes the crash.
But keep in mind that if you throw these ideas @ Kolar, he would say that 1) this is the cause of inefficient development, and all the more important to respect the NDT approach and not suggest its stupid of voodoo, and 2) you can change this neurologically. I know I can’t do it, in terms of changing adult bone, but what you can change is the resting posture via neurological tone. The slightest change in carrying the pelvis can be changed, and that may be the difference in alleviating the hip pain without surgery. I don’t know if Sahrmann misses this, or she just didn’t talk about it in this talk.
In between Sahrmann’s 2 talks, I saw University of Minnesota Head Strength Coach, Cal Dietz, present on what amounted to Blocking with the 3 phases of strength development, concentric, eccentric, and isometric. I was most intrigued to get to Jay Demayo’s conference in Richmond this year where the entire conference was centered around these Russian methods. I believe Coach Dietz presented there as did others on the different nuances and aspects of training.
I know enough to not sound retarded when it comes to Block Periodization. I think it’s probably the best way to train, but the limiting factors really preclude it in a lot of environments. It at least precludes or challenges the details that are available for peaking.
What this talk did though was further cement a line I am taking from Dr. Craig Morris. “The target organ of everything we do is the brain.” Coach’s constant message was that Block Peridodization taps into the CNS and optimizes its preparedness for power production. It’s the same window we are trying to get into with neuromuscular training. It’s how you can get stupid strong and fast with as little loading as possible. As little loading allows other phases to sustain greater loads and overall less wear and tear.
Use a bar, a dumbbell, a kettlebell, ropes, sleds, whatever. If you move with centration and the Joint by Joint and respect the ANS, you will be a monster. I think that was a brilliant common thread in all of the talks I saw. And as I said before in some way, the more smart people you listen to, the more the message is really the same.
I was the final speaker, and I won’t speak too much about myself. <sarcastic look>
Honestly, this was such an experience and honor to have been a Keynote with Thomas Myers, Clare Frank, and Shirley Sahrmann. I still have no idea how I got grouped with these legends.
All I tried to do is put together pieces of all of their systems and methods into an understanding of what it means to have a “strong core” in terms of rehabilitation and training.
I failed at keeping everybody in the room as I was personally very disappointed that many of the presenting strength coaches did not stay, but I hope those that did stay were entertained and challenged.
It was a good weekend.