Going back to the HTS

……..As coaches, when we cue tight glutes and abs during push ups or in half kneeling are we doing our athletes a disservice?……..
………..Is encouraging high threshold strategies to correct technique misguided coaching?………..
I admit I am not sure if I am understanding HTS fully but I know that in the presence of pain we guard using high threshold strategies…………

Oh, isn't this just priceless.

Oh, isn’t this just priceless.

Yes, so let’s start with, yes, I believe it is correct that these high tension techniques are high threshold strategies as far as I have come to understand the definition.

But please don’t think that if something is called high threshold that it is automatically bad.
In fact, in the lower positions you are using, feeding the tension forward may be the motor learning strategy to get you out of the lower positions or find an ideal form/joint position to commit big force.
So whether you call cuing for tight abs or tight glutes high threshold or not, if these cues get you what you want, then it is not misguided at all.  It’s the right way to do business.

Feed Forward Tension = Double Thumbs Up

Feed Forward Tension = Double Thumbs Up

The issue comes in, in my opinion, when someone exclusively uses high tension strategies for nearly all of their movements.  In this case, the large global muscles are constantly being used, similar to your coaching strategy, in a feedback mechanism.  It’s the new normal for that pattern.  This is a problem when this “default” strategy takes over techniques or movements that should not require this approach.
Practical points: Cuing high tension may be a very successful teaching and learning environment.  Did you get what you wanted?
High tension when it is not an option is a problem.
High threshold is imperative when you are moving big loads or committing forces.  It is necessary and positive.

Others have bucketed a high threshold strategy as something only negative when the global muscles of a joint or joint segment dominate the muscle action while local stabilizing muscles are down-regulated. That is fair and correct, but I am not sure that the ultimate intent of the message.  Some of the messages denote the title as High Threshold Pain Strategy whereas in the presence of pain, there is shift towards global muscle activation than the local stabilizing muscles.  Pain of course is not desirable, but is it really negative?  Pain is an indication of threat and creating an awareness, so as a survival mechanism, this shift in motor strategy can be viewed as an acute adaptation that is desirable at the onset.
When pain is no longer perceived, often this motor strategy still persists, and this can yield both compromised power output or mobility.

Here’s a clip from my 1st DVD where I talked about the High Threshold Strategy as one of the 4 major tenets of the Functional Movement System.
Here’s also a Q&A from Dr. Kyle Kiesel speaking with Joe Heiler on SportsRehabExpert.com. In 2) Kyle answers one of Joe’s questions on the High Threshold Strategy.

I have also found that these high threshold strategies can be developed by constantly teaching hard bracing techniques, such as the ones suggested here for the push-up or half-kneeling.  Constantly bracing can, doesn’t mean always will, but can lead to the same protective mechanisms, protective bracing that pain and nociception can lead to.
Continuing to train without attention to this is quite possible because biomechanics look largely the same.  Measuring angular velocities and joint pressures could be revealing, but this is not often practical and/or reproducible.  Managing softer low threshold drills that can not be executed with high tension strategies from screening and programming aspects will reveal these strategies, train out of them, and/or limit them from coming on.
Perhaps (relatively) for every hardstyle press with awesome tension through the lats and trunk, we should be going through an Indian Club technique where you can’t possibly muscle or tension your way through it.
For every hardstyle plank, maybe we need to complement it with some cobra or child’s pose positions or breathing in other softer, like the DNS positions (this is on my 2nd DVD).
For every heavy deadlift, we train prying and relaxation strategies in the toe touch………………., and hopefully this is not on the same day.

Who in the blue hell is this guy?

Who in the blue hell is this guy?

So getting back again to the original question regarding the glutes, yes, the aggressive glute squeeze I think is fairly termed as a HTS. However, if there is good stabilizing function of the 6 ER, glute min, and glute med, the high threshold contraction of the glutes can be very productive to achieve certain goals. Obviously it is one that I favor, especially in driving the pelvis to move over a fixed femur. That is an enormous tenet to developmental kinesiology.
I’ve come to work very hard and using the external cue of spill the bowl rather than squeeze the glutes in teaching the hardstyle plank.
I’ll use the same cue in half-kneeling hips, but I do not any longer ask for the tension fed forward in half kneeling.

The ideal goal would be to judiciously use the strategies such as glute squeeze, packing the neck, and abdominal bracing so that you don’t have to use them at some point.




  • November 2, 2013

Leave a Reply 5 comments

raymccarthy3rd Reply


You wrote

“For every hardstyle plank, maybe we need to complement it with some cobra or child’s pose positions or breathing in other softer, like the DNS positions (this is on my 2nd DVD). For every heavy deadlift, we train prying and relaxation strategies in the toe touch………………., and hopefully this is not on the same day. ”

Question: Why not the same day. Wouldn’t it make sense to gain new mobility then hit it with strength/stability in those new found additional ranges of motion. Say TOE touch strategies followed by heavy deadlifts. I must be confused as I thought this was something regularly done in FMS Corrections. What are the benefits to doing it same day (same workout) I think I get those. But why “hopefully not the same day”.

Ray McCarthy
(Again Great Seminar- I am still going through my notes. Hurry up and get that DVD out so I can review)

Benjamin Stevens Reply

Great article. My immediate question was the same as above /\ .

Charlie Reply

Hanging or repetitively forward bending especially being very warmed up would likely increase posterior creep in the disc. I would not want to go after big weight if there was any expression of threat through the spine.
It just doesn’t fit.

Remember, the toe touch is best exhibited, not practiced.

Of course the toe touch is proceeded by the deadlift from a competency to capacity continuum, but once you have the toe touch, I don’t know that continuing to practice it at the same time “feels right.”

raymccarthy3rd Reply

Ok Got it and understanding it. I was thinking more of a Leg Lowering Drill before a heavy deadlift. The toe touch I don’t like at all … as a matter of fact I have seen people hurt their backs just trying to get lower and lower into the Toe Touch. I was thinking more Other lower tension drills prior to HT-Drills. Thoughts. Didn’t understand you were speaking to just the Toe Touch Drill in Particular. Were you?


Charlie Reply

Yeah, I would think leg lowering is cool. I just wouldn’t do toe touch.

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