Variability & how it relates to health & performance.

Growing up I often wondered why kid’s who worked outside with farming, and other such things, were always stronger than kid’s who didn’t perform hard manual outside labor. The indoor kid is like the gym strong kid, they usually have larger muscles and more aesthetics but the farm kid from a whole-body perspective is tougher and more sustainable. The environment of the farm kid is reactive and variable. Farmers move sub maximal loads in a variety of angles, postures and directions, often for long periods of time. The gym kid typically moves load in one plane of motion typically with maximal loads for short bursts of activity. How can we glean the benefits both the farm strong style training which is variable and the gym style training which builds large muscle groups? Let us examine some physiological principles to explain why variability is critical for performance as well as health.

Our tissues are highly adaptable, but compared to the nervous system, they take a long time for adaptations to occur. In our connective tissues (fascia),Davis’ Law states that our tissues remodel along lines of stress. Wolff’s Law states that our bone has a capacity to remodel along lines of stress. The mechanism behind these adaptive properties is called Mechanotransduction. How this relates to variable training is that our tissues need exposure to variable force/stress in order to function optimally and stay healthy. Many Musculo-skeletal injuries are really injuries of the fascial system. The advances in the past two decades has given us clarity as to how we can enhance this structure through training. It is evident that variability is vital to supporting healthy connective tissue, we need variability in:

  1. Direction of force application (Variable postures and planes of motion)
  2. Speed of movement
  3. Load (Both Bodyweight and moving external mass)

Training principles for fascial connective tissues: Scientific foundation and suggested practical applications (

We must recognize that training for aesthetics is highly repetitive which may lead to dysfunction. From a motor perspective, in traditional weightlifting, we see an increase in Type-two motor fiber recruitment which innervates large phasic muscle groups. These Type-two motor units have a potential of producing high amounts of force. This is good but, we also see a decrease is Type-one motor fiber recruitment with this type of training. Type-one motor fibers are close to the joint and are stability-based fibers. Lack of synergy between Type-one motor fibers and Type-two can lead to a decrease in joint stability and ultimately greater wear and tear on the body. (Optimal Movement Variability: A New Theoretical Perspective for Neurologic Physical Therapy

Imposed demands for both athlete and the everyday person is reactive and instinctive. It is different every time. Variability fosters many befits such as, enhancing sensory motor integration. Sensory (input) and motor (output) is critical for movement health and performance. If we can sense a change in our environment and quickly produce a motor response, we can potentially decrease the chances of a critical fall. Sensory motor integration is paramount for elderly fall prevention. Athleticism itself requires a supercharged nervous system. High performing athletes need high nerve conduction velocity. These quick action potentials turn on muscle on and turn them off quickly. When muscles turn off, stretched skin and fascia recoil to their resting length. Bone, Fascia, and Muscle are omnidirectional tissues. Omni-directional force stimulates collagen and elastin production in the skin. Training that is robust and variable supercharges the nervous system by training the nervous system, fascia, skin, bone, & tendons harmoniously together.

In order to become better movers, we must move more. When we move and load the body with a variety of vectors, we enhance our internal coordination and synchronization of all muscle fiber types for various motor patterns, creating greater sustainability. Variability also enhances neurogenesis (production of new brain cells), synaptogenesis (formation of synapses between neurons). I utilize a 4 quadrant-based training and recovery system. This neuromechanical model takes into consideration loaded and unloaded linear based exercises and considers multi planer unloaded and loaded movement. Implementing a wide variety of stimulus into a training program can offset the repetitiveness of an aesthetic based training program thereby enhancing our ability to be unbreakable.

The Kinetic chain and injury.

Comprehending kinetic chain concepts is necessary to completely understand both normal and abnormal human movement. Movement at one link in the Kinetic chain, affects motion at another link and so on. Over two hundred mapped joint actions occur in the kinetic chain during the human gait cycle. The lower kinetic chain includes the toes, feet, ankles, knees, upper legs, pelvis/hips, and spinal column. The upper kinetic chain consists of the fingers, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulder girdle, cervical spine, capitis/atlas, and jaw.

Ground reaction force influences joints as the force passes across the joints at various phases of gait. Earth’s atmosphere is pressing against each square inch of us with a force equal to about 1 kilogram per square centimeter (14.7 pounds per square inch). Our body mass index, bone density, lifestyle, diet, degree of inflammatory biomarkers, emotional state, sleep patterns, thoughts, injury and surgical history, all influence how the brain perceives these specific but individual joint actions. The language of the brain is one or two things, weather the plane specific joint action is “safe” to tolerate ground reaction force or “unsafe” and intolerant to ground reaction force.

Musculoskeletal abnormality such as injury or muscular imbalance at one segment or link a in the chain can force other links to adapt to their motion. These compensatory movements are because of adaptations at a normal link as a result of an abnormal motion at another link in order that a task can still be accomplished. Awareness of compensatory movement is important for two main reasons: 1) the intended movement task will probably now require more energy than before because it is no longer being carried out with the use of the most efficient movement pattern; and 2) changes in force loading patterns on the compensating link can eventually lead to musculoskeletal abnormalities in other areas of the chain that may seem unrelated. Compensatory movement arising from stress, injury or muscular imbalance not only make activities more difficult, but, possibly will result in other injuries.

Thorough knowledge and understanding of the Kinetic chain is needed when dealing with any individual client or patient who is experiencing some sort of abnormality in their movement. Shockingly, this basic movement knowledge is not taught in any commercial education system. SQUARE 1 SYSTEM is the only education system that teaches this cornerstone of movement knowledge.

Phantom limbs & lessons for healing.

By Nile Bratcher


Many people today suffer from movement related problems that limit them in their daily activities. Some of those pain sufferers have tried traditional methods of treatment such as massage, and physical therapy, but many haven’t been able to gain lasting relief. Why is this? Could it be perhaps the status quo of injury rehabilitation and movement therapy are missing the mark with some of the population? Traditionally, discussions surrounding performance, health, and recovery have left out the significance of the brain. I’d like to take a brain-based view to a problem that affects many individuals, pain. What physiological and biochemical mechanisms are involved in the injury process and how does the brain change in response to acute insults and more devastating insults. I’ll also discuss the anatomical and physiological structures involved with producing movement and how dysfunction can contribute to overall decreased movement quality.


 For clarity, in this excerpt, I’m referring to stress relating to events or stressors that are threatening to an individual and that induce physiological and behavioral responses. Allostasis is the extension of homeostasis and represents the adaptation process of complex physiological systems to physical, psychosocial and environmental challenges (Karlamangla et al.2002). This is important to understand because many physiologic responses including hormones, temperature, blood pressure, sleep quality and nutrition always vary in response to perceived challenges (Sterling & Eyer 1988). Acute and chronic tension within muscles could be the sign of a symptom that’s overlaying a deeper adaptive mechanism within the nervous system and its response to external and internal stress. Therefore, attempts to release discomfort could be exacerbated or prolonged if an incorrect approach is taken to treat the problem.

In our normal experience within our bodies somatosensory receptors are proprioceptors, visceral sensory receptor located within blood vessels and viscera, are all quickly sent to the spinal cord and higher brain centers, integrated by the primary motor cortex, and relaying efferent motor impulses by way of motor pathways to target effectors which produce movement. Conduction pathway is an inclusive term that refers to all the series of neurons and their related structures that relay signals between the brain and the body. Sensory pathways include the sensory neurons that relay sensory input to the brain. Sensory pathways are also called ascending pathways because the nerve signals are relayed from the sensory receptors superiorly to the brain. Motor pathways include the series of motor neurons that relay motor output from the brain. Motor pathways are also called descending pathways because the nerve signals are relayed from the brain inferiorly to the body’s muscles and glands (McGraw Hill, 2019).

The axons of neurons located within the primary cortex are responsible for voluntary skeletal muscle activity, these axons decussate and project contralaterally (to the opposite side) within either the brainstem or spinal cord. Thus, the left primary cortex controls the skeletal muscles on the right side of the body and the right primary motor cortex controls the left side of the body. (McGraw Hill, 2019).

Body maps called the motor homunculus, and the sensory homunculus is a distribution of the primary motor cortex innervation to various body parts. Homunculus is for ‘little man’ located on the precentral gyrus. The figure of the body depicts the nerve distributions; the size and location of each body region indicate relative innervation (McGraw Hill, 2019). A pioneer in Neuroscientist stated it well “We don’t see with our eyes; we see with our brains. The ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and skin are just inputs that provide information. When the brain processes this data, we experience the five senses, but where the data come from may not be so important” (Bach-y-Rita, Paul, 2003).


Throughout our lives and neurocognitive development, acute and chronic stresses can disrupt somatic and motor function within the somatosensory cortex of the brain (Bach-y-Rita, P. (1992). Injuries we experience can disrupt that synchrony of the nervous system and ultimately affect movement altogether. Some individuals who were born blind have been shown to develop adaptations due to the visual deficits they experienced. “Tactile vision substitution systems deliver visual information to the brain via the skin. Blind persons not only develop the ability to perceive visual information but also learn to use visual means of analysis (parallax, looming and zooming, monocular cues of depth and perspective, and subjective spatial localization) and subjectively locate the visual information correctly in the three-dimensional space. This model has provided considerable information on brain plasticity, perceptual mechanisms, and the coordination of sensory and motor factors in the development of a perceptual organ.” (Bach-y-Rita, P 1992). Could neuroplastic exercise be the frontier of rehabilitation and injury prevention? Many neuroscientists have embarked on that path and have helped many chronic pain sufferers’ live life again without sensations of agonizing pain.

In the 1990’s neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, director of San Diego center for Brain Cognition, had been researching phantom limbs and had developed a “mirror box” to ‘resurrect’ phantom limbs and thereby ridding patients of pain accompanied by phantom limbs. This discovery led Ramachandran to use mirrors as a useful model that explains brain function. One patient mentioned within the literature titled ‘D.S.’, suffered a brachial avulsion and required him a year later to undergo amputation of the injured arm 6 inches above the elbow. He developed intense pain several times a day in his phantom arm, which was “stuck’ in a clenched position. Anytime D.S. would try and open his hand he would get jolted with pain in his phantom arm. “A relatively common phenomenon was a ‘clenching spasm’, an involuntary contraction of the phantom hand, which patients to their great annoyance could usually only unclench with difficulty. The spasm could be painful because patients would often feel their phantom ‘fingernails digging into the palm’ (Guenther, Katja, 2016)

To help rid D.S of his agonizingly painful phantom arm, V.S Ramachandran developed what was called a “mirror box”, which created a ‘virtual reality’ that related to the material world, reproducing a form of psycho-physical parallelism. Patients would sit in a chair and place their physical hands within a box that had mirrors on the right and left side of each respective box for each hand. With difficulty D.S. got his physical and phantom limbs with the mirror box. He could then “see” his phantom hand and could then freely move it without pain signals. In other words, physically seeing the phantom limb inside the “mirror box”, allowed the somatosensory cortex once again to integrate with the primary motor cortex, thereby reducing pain signals. The neurophysiology of phantom limb pain can teach us valuable lessons about how the central nervous system can rewire itself following cataphoretic injury and methods we can use to aid in the healing process.

 Persons with phantom limb pain can sense sensations with specific areas of the phantom limb, by gently stroking specific areas on the face.  It turns out, The Wilder Penfield’s somatic-sensory homunculus located on a strip of the cortex helps explain this phenomenon. Brain maps for the face are adjacent to the arms on the somatic sensory homunculus.  When the arm is amputated, sensory input signals are also lost as lost stimuli within that region of the brain map. Therefore, when these points are touched, the sensations are felt to arise from the missing hand but also felt in the maps in the face (Phantoms in the Brain, Ramachandran V.S, M.D., PH.D. 1998, pages 30).

The co-existence of these two bodies, the internal dynamic body image and the external physical body provided a framework for explaining phantom limbs. Could this model be used to further the advancement of treatment for individuals needing rehabilitation and movement dysfunction? According to Ramachandran, “when ‘a central representation of the limb survives after amputation’, the mismatch between the body image and the real body was ‘largely responsible for the illusion of a phantom” (V.S. Ramachandran and William Hirstein, 1998). “The lack of signals to that part of the brain made it particularly sensitive to signals passing through proximate areas. For that reason, stimuli sent to the neighboring part of the cortex (dedicated to the face) might now be felt by the otherwise inactive part dedicated to the arm and hand; the patient would experience sensations on the face as sensations on the arm and hand. In this way the parietal lobe continued to receive evidence that the arm still existed, and thus refused to abandon or modify the pre-existing body image” ( Katja Guenther, Princeton university, 2014).


Pain is synonymous with clients I’ve worked with throughout my career as a Health and Performance coach. Assisting my clients to achieve their goals requires me being able to help them in the most efficient way possible. What seems to be widely misunderstood is changes in tissue length and extensibility are governed by the central nervous system. Newton’s third law tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That means when forces are applied to the body, equal and opposite forces are being applied as well. Ground reaction force directly influences joints, which in-turn influences muscle tonus. Muscles should always when at rest have muscle tonus. Muscle tone is the resting tension in skeletal muscles generated by involuntary somatic nervous stimulation of muscle. Motor units within muscle can be stimulated at any time to maintain constant tension called resting muscle tone. This tension is found within muscle tendons, thus stabilizing the position of the bones and joints. Muscle tone primes the muscle for contraction, so that movement responses can be generated quicker to sensory responses.

Muscle tone plays another role in the many reflexes that our bodies have. generated by alpha motor neurons within the anterior grey horn of the spinal cord that innervate extrafusal muscle fibers and generate muscle contraction. Interneurons synapse with alpha motor neurons to antagonist muscles, inhibiting muscle contraction also called reciprocal inhibition.  Muscle spindles are composed of intrafusal muscle fibers and are innervated by gamma motor neurons within the posterior and anterior root grey horn of the spinal cord that innervate motor units within muscle fibers (McGraw Hill,2019). Areas of the body that have altered joint positioning can alter muscle tone and length-tension relationships between agonist, antagonist, and synergistic muscles. Mechanical dysregulation of reduces proper deceleration and dissipation of ground forces that travel up and through the body during movement. The mechanical energy traveling through the body causes the articulation of joint surfaces otherwise known as arthrokinematics. These angular movements of bones involve a combination of roll, spin, and glide. Decreased ability of joints to roll, spin, and glide directly affect not only range of motion of the joint but also increased ‘neural threat’ due to altered arthrokinematics. The increase in ‘neural threat’ which is increased muscle tonus (hypertonic) and will cause the reduction in joint space by adduction, flexion, and internal rotation of joints capsules thereby keeping it close to the midline where it’s neurologically “safer”. Could addressing the tension without addressing the neural mechanical component hinder progress and prolong discomfort?


Traditionally the widely accepted idea when dealing with movement dysfunction, is stretch what’s tight and strengthen what’s weak. However, a question worth asking is the source of the tissue restriction due to fascia layers not sliding properly and thus needed manual manipulation and release? Or is the source of the restriction due to the brain creating the restriction all together? Well turns out I’m not the only person who’s wrestled with these questions. Robert Schleip, head of the fascia research group at Ulm university in Germany also had frequent debates with Feldenkrais somatic education and the Rolfing method of structural integration.  Structural integration practitioners claimed that restrictions were due to mechanical adhesion within fascia and myofascial lines, whereas the somatic awareness group claimed that restriction was due to dysregulation of sensory motor integration or “it’s all in the brain”. (Schleip, Robert, 2015).

Researchers cited a story of a man who was very stiff and rigid in the hospital. When placed under anesthesia the stiffness and rigidness transformed into being limber and soft, under anesthesia his muscle tonus lowered. However, as soon as he gained consciousness his rigidness returned, and muscle tonus increased. After conducting a small study of patients who prior to surgery presented observable restriction and high muscle tonus in a particular area of the body, typically a shoulder. Robert went on to say “I must say that I was quite shocked by the result of my tests. From my Rolfer’s point of view I had expected that remaining fascial restrictions would prevent the arms dropping all the way under anesthesia. Given the limited scientific rigor of this preliminary investigation, the result nevertheless convinced me that what had been perceived as mechanical tissue fixation may at least be partially due to neuromuscular regulation (Schleip, Robert, 2015)

In many cases, reduced range of motion caused by immobilization or injury can affect arthrokinematics and result in decrease in performance. In those cases, proper assessment of joint range of motion and mobilization can improve range of motion resulting in improved arthrokinematics (Loudon, Janice, K, 1996). In fact, the provoking event for ACL injury is a delayed coactivation of the hamstrings and quadriceps and that this lack of muscular protection makes inherent knee laxity a critical factor in anterior tibial translation (Hashemi, 2011)

How can we blend neuroplastic exercise and traditional methods to help clients even further?  Looking at things through the brain is always a sure bet. “Unmasking of relatively inactive pathways, the taking over of functional representation by undamaged brain tissue, and neuronal group selection are among the mechanisms that are being explored.” (Bach-y-Rita, Paul,1990). Looking through this complex topic from a neural perspective I believe can help improve the way health and fitness professionals care for their clients at a profound level. Increased research and awareness about biofeedback and the neuroplastic nature of the brain, could result in huge paradigm shifts in the realm of post-operative rehabilitation (Queen, Robin M). An integrative mechanical model for multidisciplinary treatment that includes sensory-motor integration, movement reeducation, psychosocial intervention, and lifestyle can address many common and debilitating conditions. To achieve this, a shift in approach must occur in the rehabilitation and human performance industry that aims to address mechanical movement dysfunctions with the brain at the forefront of intervention.


“Gauenther, Katja, “It’s all done with mirrors: V.S. Ramachandran and the material culture of phantom limb research, Princeton University, 2016.

“Helene M. Langevin, Karen J. Sherman”, Pathophysiological model for chronic low back pain integrating connective tissue and nervous system mechanisms, Medical Hypotheses, Pages 74-80.

“Javad Hashemi”, Hip extension, knee flexion paradox: A new mechanism for non-contact ACL injury, Journal of Biomechanics, Pages 577-585,

“Karlamangla AS, Singer BH, McEwen BS, Rowe JW & Seeman TE” Allostatic load as a predictor of functional decline. MacArthur studies of successful aging. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 55, 696–710, 2002.

“McGraw- Hill Education”, Nervous system: Spinal Cord & Spinal Nerves, Pages 548-549, 552.

“McGraw-Hill Education”, Nervous system: Brain and Cranial nerves, Pages 504,508.

“Loudon JK, Bell SL”, The foot and ankle: an overview of arthrokinematics and selected joint techniques,1996.

“Paul Bach-y-Rita”, Recovery from Brain Damage. Journal of Neurologic

Rehabilitation, 1992.

“Paul Bach-y-Rita”, Brain plasticity as a basis for recovery of function in humans, Neuropsychologia, Pages 547-554, 1990).

“Sterling P & Eyer J”, (1988). Allostasis: a new paradigm to explain arousal pathology. In: Handbook of Life Stress, Pages 629–649.

“V.S. Ramachandran and D. Rogers-Ramachandran”, Synesthesia in Phantom Limbs Induced with Mirrors, 1996.

“V.S. Ramachandran and William Hirstein”, The Perception of Phantom Limbs,

Summer background, orange sky with glowing sun
Summer background, orange sky with glowing sun

Vitamin d metabolites & gut microbiome in older men

This study provides strong evidence  of vital interactions  between high vitamin d signaling and the health of the gut microbiome in older men. The results in the finding active vitamin d metabolites associated with more favorable gut microbial diversity. 567 community dwelling men had their  who had higher levels of vitamin d metabolites, vitamin d activation, & vitamin d catabolism rations, were associated with greater gut microbial diversity. Methods included stool samples from participants and full medical examinations. Other factors taken into consideration when testing included geographic region, nationality, bmi, and alcohol use. Men with highest compared to the lowest are more likely to posses butyrate- producing bacteria that are associated with favorable gut microbial health. These results support the claim the the human gut microbiome and vitamin d metabolism are inextricably linked. In one study cohort 6.7% reported recent antibiotics use in the past 30 days and gut microbial diversity was significantly reduced in these men. It’s also interesting to note, after adjustment for antibiotics use, the significant association between active vitamin d and gut microbial diversity persisted. 

Plasticity & sensory freeways


Dr. Norman Doidge says that, “our discovery of the plastic nature of the brain is the biggest discovery in over 400 years.”  He mentions that “modern medicine has thought of the brain as having fixed parts, each of which perform one mental function in single areas in the brain, Doidge, Norman the Brain that changes itself, Viking press,2007, preface.  Our central nervous system is dynamic, always detecting every stimulus it encounters, the brain is flexible, adaptive and extremely intelligent.  Neuroplasticity is an intrinsic characteristic of the brain.  “The idea that the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity is, I believe, the most important alteration in our view of the brain since we first sketched out its basic anatomy and the workings, of its basic component, the neuron,” Doidge, Norman, the Brain that changes itself, Viking Press, 2007, preface.

Dr. Paul BachyRita used the analogy of brain maps to explain how our brains learn new information and skills and adapt to our environment.  Our brain maps have major pathways, these are like the freeways in our brain, that are responsible of handling large volumes of information and does so efficiently.  Now if there’s traffic on the highway, you can sit in traffic and remain idle, or you can get off on the secondary road.  These secondary roads in the brain are like “side street/backroads.”.  Brain map patterns are, up/down, left/right, which are the preferred pathways for basic human movement patterns.  Brain maps are the representation of the external world to the nervous system.  Overtime the brain takes these “side streets” and converts them into “superhighways” and re-routes information.

The fascinating phenomenon of phantom limb pain teaches us something valuable about how the central nervous system can rewire itself.  Persons with phantom arms can have the missing maps of the arm invaded by the maps in the face.  When the face is stroked, the person will feel the touch sensations in their phantom arm. How?  The maps of the arm originate on the opposite side of the brain., the maps intersect with the maps on the face.  Therefore, when these points are touched, the sensations are felt to arise from the missing hand but also felt in the maps in the face.  Because of the missing limbs sensory maps were cut in the case of an amputation, the brain rewires and reroutes the signals that at one point went to the intact arm, Phantoms in the Brain, Ramachandran V.S, M.D., PH.D. 1998, pages 30.

In order to assist in the healing and rebuilding process of the human body, priority should be given to finding the root cause of the matter.  Treating and dealing with just the condition is insufficient.  Low back pain accounts for the second most cause of disability in the united states according to the National center for biotechnology information conducted a study in of 2015 on the rising prevalence of low back pain.  NCBI mentions in a study that, “current protocols to treat lower back pain often includes the use of multiple health care Practioners, which some can argue encourages the further medicalization and persistence of lower back pain”, Queen, M. Robin, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. According to this study, nearly 1 out of every 60 athletes will suffer some sort of injury during their adolescent years.  Approximately 90% of these injured athletes will undergo an ACL reconstruction surgery which is estimated at an annual cost of Three Billion Dollars.  While reconstruction and subsequent rehabilitation allow these athletes to return to their sports, they will have a 15-fold increased risk of a secondary ACL injury, a tear at the ACL graft or, the contralateral ACL.  

In the fitness and rehabilitation industry, it is widely promoted that if the treatment protocol is not physically hurting the client or patient, it’s presumed there is still neural integrity.  However, tissue integrity does not always mean there is neural integrity, especially if one is judging the structural and neural integrity of the client based only on what you see.  Various forms of tissue manipulation such as massage, foam rolling, joint adjustment, or stretching can interfere with neural integrity.  This is important because, if we want to be effective specialists and coaches, valuable time, money and energy can’t be wasted on treatment protocols and fitness programs that don’t work.

As a certified motor control restoration specialist by Square 1 system, www.square1system.comand a certified Personal Trainer, pain is always a topic of concerns for my clients.  Therefore, I must be able to help them improve as fast as possible. When addressing any mechanism for tissue restriction, you must ask, is the tissue restriction protective muscle guarding? or is the restriction joint impingement?  There’s a fifty-fifty chance of being correct.  If the scenario presents itself as protective muscle guarding, there lies a reciprocal facilitation and inhibition of tissue.  Meaning, the brain by use of proprioceptors, causes the agonists to become hypertonic or have too much tone.  Additionally, it’s synergists and stabilizers are automatically facilitated while its antagonists are inhibited or become hypotonic or having too little tone, Frost, Robert, PhD, Applied Kinesiology revised edition,1950, pages 289.  In order to correct this, you can activate the underactive antagonists & release over active agonists.  

 In the case of joint impingement, joint centration is altered and there’s a state of hypotonic antagonists or muscles having too little tone and hypertonic agonists having excessive tone, Frost, Robert, PhD, Applied Kinesiology revised edition, 1950 pages 289.  To correct this issue, you could activate the under active antagonists & or release the hypertonic agonists.  As you can see, each scenario requires a different approach to correct the restriction.  So, which one is it? protective muscle guarding? Or joint impingement?  It’s nearly impossible to answer the question correctly consistently because there are thousands of scenarios of why the client is having this tissue restriction.  Therefore, we can’t trust what we see when it comes to restoring function at a fundamental level.

If I told you the outcome or answer to a math problem is 100, could you accurately give me the equation?  Is it 90+10? 200 minus 100? 1000/10?  Logical doesn’t mean necessarily mean accurate.  The same is true of observable movement outcomes.  “Tight hamstrings” could come from inhibited, weak, sleepy hip flexors, opposite side glute weakness or protect muscle guarding.  Many logical guesses are not accurate.  We need a better way to handle this complex subject of human movement and it probably needs to start from a simple yet intricate understanding of how bodies are supposed to move in a gravity governed world.

What causes protective muscle guarding and joint impingement?  Neural compensation.  Why must we compensate?  Because of planar & directional specific load intolerant joint positions.  Why do we have load intolerant issues?  Blocked movement sensorimotor pathways.  The brain detects these “off limits” joint positions and alters its movement plan.  As a result, tissue length-tension relationships can become altered. and joint centration is deviated.  Stress, trauma and pain can result in blocked of damaged pathways.  Overtime, compensation sets in. Like a tight low back, or a restricted right shoulder. Or a restricted neck.  Therefore, manipulation of tissue and joints is a temporary solution that addresses only symptoms rather than underlying causes.

Newer neuro-rehabilitative therapies are capitalizing on neuroplasticity and facilitating creation of new pathways.  Within Square 1, we reopen the original existing sensory movement pathways.  In this way we are saving the brain the energy of rebuilding new pathways.  We are essential converting neural side streets into neuro superhighways again.  Square 1 has a unique system that pinpoints preferred pathway blockages.  We correct this through hyper specific intent and secondarily through isolated physical practice of those specific positions in the form of isometric contractions.  The brain has specific needs and if you can read (not see) the needs of the brain well, magic happens very consistently.


Spineless society

As a movement coach and rehabilitation professional, I must agree with spine specialists, there are far too many people with bad posture! Everywhere we go we see people burying their heads down into their electronic devices. It’s severely abnormal for the human body to be placed in such high degree of spinal and skull flexion for an excessive period of time on a regular basis. Why do I say that? Well.. Fetal or Pronated positions are one of our foundational primal patterns for human beings. Pronation, widely known as Flexion, pulls the Human Movement System (HMS) into the midline of the body. We excessively sit or are constantly in a Fetal or Pronated position every day of our lives. Working, eating, commuting, television, the list is bountiful. This epidemic of a sedentary lifestyle is reeking havoc on the functionality of The Human System.
The load that is placed on the spine from excessive flexion can irritate the disks in between the vertebrae and cause Subluxation (Herniation of the disks). This causes severe pain surrounding the spine, spasticity and even nerve impingement can occur. Additionally, we create a cascade of dysfunctional Inter-muscular Coordination – The ability of the neuromuscular system to allow muscles to work together with proper activation and timing between them (NASM essentials of Personal Fitness Training third edition). Moreover, it manifests gross Arthrokinetic dysfunction – A Biomechanical and neuromuscular dysfunction in which forces at the joint are altered, resulting in abnormal joint movement and proprioception (NASM essentials of Personal Fitness Training third edition).This is why Chiropractors, Movement therapists like myself and others are so busy! People are in more pain than ever because of their cell phones.
Compensatory movement can be viewed similar to this: The Human body is perfectly designed to function and keep us alive by allowing us to get from point A to point B. Or even from point A to point G or X. As we encounter stress on regular basis, those we are conscience of and those we are not conscious of, effects the body and as a result, forces the system to adapt its movement based on the joint dysfunctions acquired by stressful stimuli or insult.
Studies have shown that traumatic stressful events are stored in the memory center of the brain called the Hippocampus. From a survival stand point, this is an extremely logical process to possess in order to continually allow our bodies to adapt to our ever changing environment. For example, it’s more vital for our brain to recall not that, ‘there’s a lovely tiger lily field behind that rock over there’, but it should recall that ‘there is a Cobra den behind that rock’. Makes sense right? I mean we get the biggest releases of dopamine (Neurotransmitter that is responsible for making us feel good for things that cause pleasure), several of them being staving alive, eating, sleeping, having and passing on our genes. Our industrialized lifestyle forces us into daily activities that deteriorate our movement capabilities.

Excessive sitting is now the new smoking. Type two diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States ( We are like zombies addicted to our devices and over stimulated with LED pixels that our brains cannot shut off because it does not know the difference between night and day despite still releasing melatonin ( Tight pectorals, carpels (anterior portion of the forearm), and over developed fingers from excessive systemic texting and typing are causing more pain symptoms. Despite our technological and scientific advances, we as human beings are moving worse than ever before.

The Industrial Paradox.

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games displayed amazing feats of athleticism and competition. Leaving viewers with questions as to what these world class athletes do to boost sport execution. Conversely, athletes are constantly striving to find the elusive edge to boost performance.

Having been in the fitness and rehabilitation industry for over thirteen years,  I have seen and experienced many trends come and go. A particular technique created a frenzy, reasoning  that if it works for them, it must work for me.

The modality had claims to give athlete’s the cure that suffered from chronic pain. I recall in the early 2005 when “Self Myofacial Release” was introduced as the tool to eliminate pain, tightness, and weakness that plagued many people. Described as, applying self weighted pressure throughout an area of soft tissue where tightness and plain is located. Sometimes it could increase range of motion or sometimes it would worsen. Inconsistencies abounded and overtime it became scrutinized and disregarded as a true restorative protocol.

Not long thereafter a movement screening test was introduced as a ground breaking protocol to identify and correct faulty movement patterns. Using a series of movement deviation tests to objectively grade movement quality. An overall score would then determine that person’s risk for injury. Furthermore, generalized corrective exercises would be prescribed for certain scores. Many trainers and participants found themselves performing the same so called corrective exercises daily for months and even years without consistent results. If a tool is professed to be truly corrective, should it not correct the issue at hand and not require habitual exercises? The approach became harshly criticized and dismissed by many industry leaders.

More and more systems and protocols spawned with mixed or inconsistent results that are not in harmony with Bio-mechanics, despite the best of intentions results prove to be scanty. Industry professionals have an obsession with addressing only the outcomes of the Human Movement System. Attempts to improve motor control by prescribing motor learning programs is subjective and inconsistent. If poor mobility is an issue, then prescribing mobility exercises or soft tissue releasing techniques is chosen. Strength deficits? Implement strength building exercises. These examples may seem like the correct approach however, rather than looking superficially at outcomes a more profound strategy is required.

Perturbation or irritation of homeostasis is stress. Insults to homeostasis can come in multiple forms such as physical, environmental, emotional, mental, and thermal forms. As a result, this can cause the body to form Joint Dysfunctions (JDS).  Joint Dysfunctions are planer specific joint motions that cannot tolerate load. This is also defined as motor control deficits. The body then detours around these deficits, the body does this likely as a mechanism for survival. Furthermore, this aversion leads to compensatory movement(s), which results in faulty movement patterns, the two goes hand in hand. The bi-product to Joint Dysfunction leads to symptoms such as tightness, adhesion’s, loss of strength, mobility, power, coordination, balance, the list goes on.

Compensatory movement is the process by which the body operates with lost resources. All movement under these conditions are sub-par. If these lost resources are not made available to the central nervous system, movement patterns will continue to deteriorate. Tissues take up a larger role and suffer over time. Attempting to intervene by means of strength programs, motor skill development, mobility techniques, or massage approaches will only bolster compensatory movement if at first restoring lost joint motions are not properly addressed. These things in themselves are not wrong  however, the manner in which they are implemented is. One can not place fitness on dysfunction. To illustrate; if you have a weak spinal stabilizers, attempting to develop six pack abs with abdominal exercises will not correct the underlining issues of weak stabilizers.

The phenomenon of Protective Muscle Guarding is always apart of the complicated riddle of dysfunction. This is the central nervous system’s natural ability to guard from further injury by tightening tissues surrounding a joint. This in retrospect is a good thing because it prevents movement to a degree where instability and dysfunction are present. The common approach for this mechanism is releasing the tension by stretching or tissue release techniques. Why change what the nervous system deems necessary for survival without insuring it is in a better state of function after intervention?

To illustrate, after sustaining a cut on the superficial layer of skin, the body immediately goes into action to stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and restore homeostasis. As a result, a scab begins to form. Similarly, attempts to change the tissue tone from protective muscle guarding tends to exacerbate the issue rather than aiding the healing process. The majority of interventions lack a system of checks and balances to tangibly view progress and identify glitches between the joint’s and central nervous system.

The strategy to address the profound deficit’s is RESET. “Rehabilitation, fitness, and performance professionals typically assess movement outcomes and go no deeper than addressing a motor learning program to address the flawed outcomes. RESET goes much deeper by addressing Motor Control deficits to directly improve motor patterns and indirectly improve motor learning and all movement outcomes..” as stated by the developer of RESET. These results are mediocre at best and if there are any results they tend to be short lived. This approach is not entirely incorrect, the argument I and many of my colleagues are making is that it does not address the cardinal deficits.

Bruce Lee stated that he does not know styles or genres. He uses techniques that are most effective in order to accomplish his goal. This is the origin and philosophy of his martial art Jeet Kun Do. The goal? Disarm, damage, or win against your opponent in the most efficient and effective way possible. Bruce Lee did not reinvent the wheel he simply utilized all tools available, combined with his own knowledge, wisdom, and intellect. That is what RESET provides along with REFORM. A combination of physical training, nutrition counseling, psychological life training, and true restorative therapy.

In conclusion, before implementing an exercise or rehabilitation modality with the idea that it will work for me because it worked for them may leave you with more questions than answers. Professional athletes are in their positions because of their unique gifts and their performance may not always reflect an exercise or rehabilitation program that works for everyone.

You cannot fire a cannon from a canoe.

From the commencement of my fitness career I observed movment being broken down into categories. Multiple areas of the gym riddled with machines labeled biceps, triceps, chest, back, legs and the popular abdominals. A well intentioned member without knowledge on exercise can simply sit in a chair adjust the seat setting and push or pull their hearts away without needing to think twice. Not a bad trade off when you have spent  all day driving your kids around town, making decisions at the office, and paying bills. Sometimes it is nice to have someone do the in depth thinking for you. From my personal perspective as a dancer, I never thought of the body operating in a compartmentalized fashion. If I wanted to learn a move I had to contemplate it in my mind, implement repetition developing specific motor learning skills, recruiting my entire body. Even if regression was needed to develope the desired skill all parts of were still utilized.

I am writing to tell you there is no such thing as a shoulder. No such thing as the hip, or even knee. An arguable paradox indeed. But why do we refer and think of the Human Movement System as inanimate objects that operates autonomously? If the big toe is hurt are not your your entire movment capabilities? If a shoulder is injured does it not force compensatory actions to adapt to the damage? The Human Movment System operates on laws of global synergistic harmony.

There lies a superficial muscular system that is referred to as Prime-movers and there lies a profound muscular system at is know as the stabilizers. Think of the stabilizers like the guide wires on a large boat, keeping the ship stable and rigid to withstand the wind, water currents and sometimes a violent storm. Bringing me to my main point and the title of this posting, You cannot fire a cannon from a canoe. What do I mean by that? A cannon is powerful, large and can cause a severe amount of damage to an intended target. A canoe is slender, formed of light framework and propelled by paddles capable of handling the most calm currents of water. A cannon on a canoe and attempting to fire it would prove disastrous for the canoe and its passengers. This is precisely what is occurring in fitness and sports programming. The obsession with svelete figures, round pectorals, firm buttocks, and toned arms is creating a generation of dysfunctional people from a movment perspective.

Exercise selection and reccomendations by coaches, instructors and trainers is littered with flexion inspired movements  such as; crunches and sit up variations. Linear exercises such as Olympic  inspired weight lifting, dead lifting, bench pressing and many others. These exercises are not entirely wrong, the question is how much do they consume in a program? Placing an undo emphasis on developing the superficial musculature can lead to a dysfunctional movement capabilities, deconditioned deep stabilizers that or out of sync with the superficial system. Imbalances such as these contributes to length tension relationship unevenness, discordant movment patters, proprioceptive inefficiency, and decordination. In contrast, introducing and integrating exercises that are multiplaner, multidimensional, multidirectional that is propriaceptivly enriched creates a more rigid, more functional system that allows the body to be more effective at ballistic demands as well as, dynamic system that works in congruency with the outer unit.  This allow the neuromuscular system to recruit muscles at a higher level based on the demand.

Paul Check gave this topic headlines in the early 1999 in his segment tilted ” Scientific Core Conditioning from the C.H.E.K Institute. The “Guide wires” or inner unit of the spine are the transverse abdomens, multifidus, internal obliques, pelvic floor, and diaphragm. The outer unit of the trunk are the rectus abdominas, external oblique and erector spinae. Of course the outer are important to the overall balance of a well built ship. It would however, be functionally ineffective without the stabilizing support of the unner unit which stabilizes the spine and provides the outer unit with the support it needs to be strong and rigid. Over developing the superficial components creates excess tension, disrupting the harmony between internal and external structures. Furthermore, the superficial front line which originates at the dorsal phalanges of the foot and works its way north to the mastoid process, linking many parts together such as the sternocleidomastoid, sternum, rectus abdominis patella and quadriceps can become locked in a concentrically shortend loaded position. This has been shown by Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains.

So what are you suppose to do now? Should you throw away the machines, barbells, kettle bells, and heavy dumbbells? may be wondering- not necessarily. Back to my original illustration, you must rebuild your canoe to handle the load of a cannon. A canoe decorated in war paint just can’t do the job necessary for tasks of daily life, performance and weekend warrior actives. Within the REFORM method, I systematically address each area the body with an inside out approach versus an outside in. It’s not always about how much weight you can push, pull, squat or throw. Prime movers are taken into consideration however, that is a small piece of the program.

REFORM’s foundation is centered on building an internal structure that is first neuromuscularly sound, applying instability as a core stimuli. This leads to a stronger outer unit. Do not build a canoe with skull and crossbones painted on its ports with a cannon bigger than the canoe itself. Instead build a warship with multiple cannons, that is structurally sound, with the war paint on its ports.


You must learn the rules before you break them.

Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu is an art form similar to that of a chess match. Every move is vital and every move can result in a loss. Unlike organized team sports, the victory is separated by a point system. Conversly, victory in  Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu is obtained by two factors; The point system, or the majestic victory via submission. The ranking system is separated by color of belt. White-Belt or novice to Black-Belt or expert. This is obtained by tireless hours of instruction, implementation and meditation. At my old Jiu-Jitsu school west of Chicago, I heard of rumors around town that near by Dojo’s (Japanese for Training complex) professors would pay for their Black-Belts. This would give the illusion to some unbeknownst students that their instructor was a master but behind their facod they were artificial. I label people of this sort Internet professionals & YouTube disciples. What’s my point? Being labeled as a professional, coach, instructor, master, or  trainer must first  be initiated by comprehension of the basic rules of their respective feilds, before one can place a label  beside his or her name.

The explosion of group fitness in the past several years has provided an avenue for people who want to exercise and get in shape an affordable and convientient solution to do so. Classes are typically 60 minutes or less, relatively affordable and provide a group atmosphere to allow people to be motivated by community. These are all positive outcomes of such a new trend. This has also opened the door for many novice individuals to take advantage of this free for all. Many organizations hold one or two day seminars and after compelting it can be allowed to instruct people how to perform complex Olympic lifts, static stretches and quasi massage techniques. Moreover, some group fitness classes pair continuous high intensity exercises with complex movements with dozens of participants with loud music. What is wrong with this picture? This is no different from the counterfeit Black- Black I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Reaping the benefits of the industry without paying their dues.

I was giving a small seminar to a very successful C____F____ Gym. As I began to speak about  planes of movement a critical element of Human Biomechanics, they looked at me like a deer in headlights. Completely ignorant of these vital laws.  B-Boys mimic dynamic moves they saw on Red Bull BC ONE without having or developing rhythm. Jiu-Jitsu players want to use ankle locks while still a White-Belt becasuse they saw it on UFC Fight Night. Coaches want to teach people how to Olympic Lift without understanding the Law of Pronation and Supination. Group Fitness owners with a Business and Marketing degree generate six figure incomes while members unknowingly sabatoge themselves with untintelligent, robotic exercise. This paradox is saturated in my industry and many other arts. To sum it up; understand  the basics, be humble, strive  for knowledge and perspective and with years you will have wisdom.

Your Gut bacteria is more important than you know.



Will avoiding touching your hands around that public door handle really prevent you from contacting the so called bad germs? Is using your hand sanitizer really killing off viruses that cause us to get sick? Does antibiotics cause more harm then good for that nagging infection? What happened to the old school motto of putting dirt on it and toughing it out? Well…Things are not always as they seem. The hidden world of Bacteria are ubiquitous. They live on us, inside us and all around us, this is the Microbiome.

Our GI tract is 70% of our bodies’ immune system. In Addition, there are more bacteria in our gut than there are cells in our body. Recent findings show the hidden catalyst in your weight loss may lie in the balance of your gut flora. The wide spread overuse of antibiotics, medications such as PPI (protein pump inhibitors), anti-acids, artificial and processed foods are the contributors of the diagnosis “Dysbiosis”.

Amoxicillin and Tylosin represent more than 80% of antibiotics prescribed in American children. Studies with mice show that early exposure to antibiotics have a significantly higher bone density, fat and muscle mass than their counterparts (Missing Microbes, Martin J. Blaser, MD page 162-163). Obesity and leanness can be predicted with 90% accuracy just by examining the gut bacteria. Additionally, studies show that when microbes that were taken from obese mice and placed into germ free mice, the germ free lean mice gain weight. In contrast, when germ free lean mice microbes were given to obese mice they did not gain weight. Therefore, obesity is much more complex than just the food we eat and how much we exercise.

The increase of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohns disease, Celiac disease, Alergies, Obesity, Ulcerative Colitis has a link with other widespread increases in Western Europe and North America. The explosion of Antibiotics, C-sections, industrialized countries, packaged food without expiration, hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap are also factors in this quasi-mystery. Are you clean and unhealthy, or dirty and healthy?

I welcome you to contact me for more information
about any of my services or methodologies.