Saturday, November 3, 2018

Consistency vs Intensity

     People often overestimate the gains they can make through training in the short term. Conversely, they underestimate their potential for long term gains.

     Culturally, as Americans, we seem to view our training efforts in the context of an acute struggle, a Rocky Balboa esque surge of willpower. We are highly cinematic. Every effort is life or death, win or lose.

     Physiological change doesn't work that way. Our bodies are more inclined to reward habitual behavior than they are the sporadic. An approach to training is best cultivated with the prioritization of macro lifestyle factors and a mindset favoring habitual change. The role of consistency in the training process cannot be overstated.

     Adaptation takes place in the recovery from stimulus, a stimulus which is best applied at consistent intervals for perpetual adaptation. Cranking the intensity to extremes can take away from overall work volumes and leave gains on the table. Pure consistency will always beat pure intensity when it comes to training results.


     In de-conditioned individuals, the stimuli required to promote positive adaptations are not particularly high. Neural pathways and mechanical patterns are ripe for the strengthening, and week to week percentage gains are disproportionately high in comparison to the diminishing returns experienced by a more conditioned athlete.


     While intensity will never be a shortcut to long term growth and development, it is certainly a factor. Consistency and intensity are at constant interplay within the currents of physiological stress response. Conditioning is a game of risk-to-reward ratios. Since consistency delivers such high rewards with little to no risk, it holds more weight in our priority pyramid. The high intensity, higher risk protocols should be pursued once baseline consistency has been established.

    Fitness is a journey worthy of enjoyment, it is a rewarding experience. Don't be afraid to look around and enjoy the moment. Patience is an ally, so smell the roses and don't look too far ahead of a solid days work. Your mindset and your effort are the only thing under your control anyway, so don't lose sight of your macro vision. The interconnectedness of your physical training and mental discipline, while intangible, is one of the most useful adaptations to become the strongest version of yourself.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tissue Hydration

It should come as no surprise that water is a huge component of muscle function. A constant supply of water perpetuates the motion of nutrient absorption. Water intake facilitates physiological processes such as circulation, metabolism, temperature regulation, and waste removal.

Whether it’s the blood supply pumping through our veins, or the glycogen stored within our muscle spindles, the effect of hydration is constant.

The role of hydration is not simply fulfilled through fluid intake, as many people think. Hydration is just as much achieved through the foods we eat, as the effect of nutrient content on hydration is highly correlated.

For practical purposes, our ability to use the water we drink greatly depends on certain nutrients which retain it in the muscle tissue. These include both carbohydrates and essential minerals. Without these basic nutrients, fluid will flush through our system, and could ironically make us LESS hydrated.


CarboHYDRATES play an essential role in hydrating muscle tissues and preserving their function. The timing of carbohydrate consumption in proximity to active movement helps to saturate the glycogen stores in our muscle tissue, increasing their hydration level and propensity to contract efficiently and at full velocity.

Starches and fruits present a variety of carbohydrate sources, with each source digesting and affecting insulin levels at a different rate. It's generally best to consume a variety of carbohydrates, including the sugars found in fruits and the slower digesting glucose provided by starchy carbs like brown rice and sweet potatoes. Meals timed within the exercise window (pre + post workout) can benefit from quick digesting carbs like white rice and white potatoes. 

The amount of fiber in a carbohydrate source will slow its glycemic effect. A high fiber carbohydrate (sweet potatoes) will have a sustained energetic effect, while a low fiber carbohydrate (white rice) will have a quicker energetic effect. Neither one is good or bad. It's all about timing. 


Essential minerals like Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium hold onto the water that we consume, maintain our hydration status, and protect against fatigue. In my opinion, mineral content is largely overlooked, particularly when people begin “healthy diets”.

A common error among novices is to cut out sodium intake upon beginning a “diet program”. Among the cultural illiteracies that we experience in regard to food, none seems to uniquely annoy me in the way that does the demonization of salt.

This common misconception will work against the willpower of well intentioned, ambitiously motivated attempts at healthy eating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to hear that a client is juicing fresh vegetables and blending spinach in their new Vitamix. That’s a great move! However, don’t forget to add some salt to your meals before you get a headache and start making trips to the bathroom every 20 minutes. You NEED minerals to properly utilize the fluid you consume.

Magnesium and Potassium are best found in fruits and vegetables. People who avoid vegetables will typically have an electrolyte deficit with these two despite adequate sodium intake. Green, leafy vegetables will often contain adequate magnesium, while many fruits and vegetables contain potassium. Calcium, quite obviously found in milk, can also be found in broccoli, cabbage, and okra, and fish.

Solid nutritional habits lay the groundwork for the body’s adaptation process, and lock into place the neural inputs we distill through the training process. Fueling the body with carbohydrates and electrolytes retains fluid in the cells and muscle tissues. Being hydrated correctly protects against injury, enhances performance, and improves an overall sense of well-being.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Frontier of Myofascial Medicine


   The greatest depths of our oceans remain a mystery to us, even more so than our knowledge of their comparably distant stretches in outer space. Yet still more deficient is our body of research into the deep world of fascia which exists beneath our very own skin. 

      To be unconsciously incompetent is blissful. We don’t know what we don’t know, until we eventually piece together its prerequisites. To be consciously incompetent, however, is a substantial burden. For the ambitiously curious, it implies a responsibility to connect the dots, to define the congruency between variables which we separately know to be true. Conscious incompetence is a call to action.

      As a species, we fall prey to egocentric bias, patting ourselves on the back for our accounted knowledge, for that which we have consciously understood.


      We are truly only beginning to knock on the gates of fundamental medical mysteries. For example, our ability to treat Alzheimer’s, our ability to regenerate a damaged spinal cord, to cure cancer, to treat mental illness, or to rehabilitate traumatic brain injury. These fields of medical science exist in a black hole of undefined research expectancies.

      The constraints of time hold us captive in a medical arms race to relieve our suffering, a suffering which is exponentially contained in comparison to our ancestors, and equivalently tumultuous in comparison to what will be for our descendants. Such is the nature of human progress.

      In the name of progress, its imperative that we acknowledge a notoriously under researched, yet wildly important field of medical science. The myofascial network which encapsulates our musculoskeletal system remains disproportionately neglected in the U.S medical system. These layers beneath the skin host a large collagenous sheath, a fibrous network of responsive and adaptive connective tissue which is as consequential as it is malleable. A rapidly evolving piece of the human organism, working in tandem with the underlying muscle bellies and their firing sequences, force transmissions, and structural lines of pull against gravity.


      At this very moment, your myofascial structure creates tension against gravity by stabilizing along global myofascial meridians. Your neurons simultaneously send information to your brain through mechanoreceptors located within each tissue, and your circulatory system hydrates these tissues with the nutrients you consume.


      Those who exist on the cutting edge of the medical field have already integrated their approaches through multiple modalities and scopes of analysis. Many physical therapists and chiropractors incorporate myofascial interventions in varying capacities. While some providers are more competent in working with soft tissue than others, the overall structure of the insurance reimbursement model is not built to reward such skillsets. When skill sets are not rewarded, they are correspondingly under developed in providers.

      A structural understanding of myofascial tissue possesses life changing power. Connective tissues are responsible for both local and global recruitment signals which cascade patterns along the kinetic chain. Kinesthetic literacy enables us to better diagnose myofascial dysfunction, and to manually restructure fascial tissues to facilitate better movement.


      Yet still there remains a disconnect among pain patients, our culture remains largely illiterate in regard to movement, and its role in joint health. Our healthcare system continues to over prescribe pain medication, over utilize expensive and counterproductive surgeries, and leave patients with no answers.

      It’s safe to say that a large portion of Americans are disappointed in the level of orthopedic healthcare they receive in comparison to its astronomical cost, particularly in the monstrous amount of people suffering from chronic pain. Myofascial intervention doesn’t generate high profit margins for the medical system. From a revenue perspective, large corporate hospital executives are most concerned with maximizing expensive procedures and prescriptions. These billing codes generate the largest profit for the least amount of time and energy. When the natural course of business practice and revenue generation have a tendency to control the options of medical professionals, patients ultimately bear the costs, both financially, and with their quality of care.

      When applied correctly by a well-trained practitioner, manual bodywork is ironically of tremendous value to the PATIENTS themselves. Correctly applied bodywork will often attack the primary, underlying myofascial causes of musculoskeletal pain. This is in many cases the missing link in our system, and can connect the dots for patients who are struggling to see improvement.

      The business of healthcare seems to inhibit the practice of healthcare, limiting providers in their ability to maximize patient outcomes. The insurance reimbursement model is archaic in comparison to our restorative capabilities. In fact, there are physical therapists right here in North Carolina who have left the insurance reimbursement system entirely. A growing number of cash based physical therapy practices are opening up their doors around the country. Many healthcare providers are seeing more efficient treatment, better patient outcomes, and higher quality interactions when they leave the shackles of insurance. After coming to this realization, I was disenfranchised in my dreams of completing physical therapy school.

      So here we exist on the frontier of myofascial medicine, a renaissance propagated by the internet and it’s ever deepening pool of collaborative resources. Myofascial bodyworkers are working thanklessly forward on a trajectory which gives them diminishing marginal financial incentive to perform hands on treatment. We are more consciously competent than ever in regard to the substantial myofascial variables of orthopedic care, yet the administrative and political forces at the forefront of medicine remain gridlocked. Many patients need myofascial treatments which are monumentally beneficial to their health, yet financially de-incentivized and circumstantially unavailable thanks to an archaic medical industrial complex.

      Manual bodywork is becoming increasingly respected for a reason. It’s inherent value guarantees its continuation among privatized circles, available only to the wealthy and those with independent resources. As society’s movement literacy improves, as we are not only consciously competent in myofascial medicine, but furthermore incentivized to culturally educate and provide it, we can see drastic improvements in medical outcomes. The manual re-structuring of connective tissue has an understated and underappreciated role in not only recovering from injury, but in optimizing health and the human experience.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Length Tension Relationships

Length tension relationships are at the root of each joint in the body. Our musculature forms a system of levers which pull on the joints at opposing angles to create stability while we navigate position. Healthy length tension relationships exist when our muscular recruitment patterns are optimal. This results in a coordinated synergy of levers to articulate our range of motion. In any given joint, surrounding musculature both facilitates and inhibits a given movement.

Joints are controlled by opposing sets of muscles, agonists and   antagonists. These muscle groups balance each other to create motion at the joints. As one muscle lengthens, the other shortens. The quadriceps facilitates extension of the knee by acting as the agonist. The hamstrings, however, have an inhibitory effect on this movement by opposing the quadriceps, acting as the antagonist. The quadriceps and the hamstrings oppose one another, acting as contralateral pressures.

 This principle is called Reciprocal Inhibition.  So long as this relationship is healthy, stress will be evenly distributed across the knee joint. Herein lies the essence of a length tension relationship.

This relationship between muscle groups is found throughout all joints of the human body, and healthy tissues maintain healthy length-tension relationships at each joint. However, when we suffer an injury, we experience Altered Reciprocal Inhibitionmeaning that a restricted agonist inhibits the neural drive to its functional antagonist. This alters neuromuscular patterning and affects movement of the joint in question.

This same relationship holds true in the joints and corresponding muscles of the lumbar spine.

The flexors and extensors of the spine maintain intervertebral stiffness and stability within the joints, and injuries to the low back alter the relationship between these muscles in a very predictable pattern.

Several clinical studies have demonstrated decreased firing of the Transverse AbdominusPsoasInternal Oblique, and Multifidi muscles in individuals with Chronic Low Back Pain.
            On an individual level, we build the training process to assess and improve length tension relationships.  Kinesthetic awareness is a valuable skill which requires cultivation and practice. Through time and proper training, we come to know more of the unique myofascial relationships which dictate joint health, like a personalized fingerprint which provides insight into our exercise programming and volume specifications.

            Myofascial restriction presents structural consequences not only to local musculature, but along global myofascial meridians spanning up and down the body. Directing and improving your myofascial structure is a key step in balancing your kinetic chain for more efficient movement, less pain, and optimal performance. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Master Regulator

While all skeletal muscles have a synergistic function, only one dictates its will upon the rest. The diaphragm serves up oxygen, the most essential element for life, expanding and contracting to maintain the body’s homeostasis.

The diaphragm acts as a master regulator through the stresses of life and training. Your breathing pattern is the most direct feedback loop you possess in gauging your Central Nervous System.

The Diaphragm as a Gauge

Your breathing rate and cadence serve as your most immediate biofeedback loop. 
The rate and cadence of your breathing remain unchanged when presented with an insufficient stimulus for growth. 

The rate and cadence of your breathing is starkly interrupted when an exercise is too difficult, as your brain processes the immediate threat. This exemplifies a stimulus too challenging for growth, and potentially dangerous.

The premises of these scenarios are blatantly obvious, even to a novice exerciser. The real utility of diaphragmatic response lies in the more moderate ranges. The diaphragm’s intimate relationship with working muscles is a focal point in gauging the intensity of both resistance and cardiovascular training. With experience, your breathing pattern will guide you in assessing the appropriate intensity for you to grow in your training.

In the more moderate ranges of intensity, kinesthetic awareness of diaphragmatic response helps you to operate with precision, to tune into your body’s natural work rhythm and precisely stimulate the training process.

Neural Pathways

Your neuromuscular patterns are coded deeply within your brain, where familiar patterns become increasingly efficient. The more you perform a movement, the more familiar your diaphragm becomes in regulating the breathing pattern which accompanies said movement.

New, foreign patterns will interrupt this natural breathing pattern as your brain shifts into the learning process. Learning a new pattern is like walking a slack line, it’s a balancing act. Your consciousness shifts, often with polarity, between executing correct movement mechanics, and the conscious effort to breathe. This is no coincidence. This is the process.

Once your CNS downloads the movement pattern into its database, with practice, the diaphragm learns to work in sync with the muscles. It is in this phase when you become one with the movement, when your diaphragm has unconsciously established the mind muscle connection.

Diaphragmatic breathing is more than just a tool to relax or meditate. It is the very fabric which weaves all movements together, a big piece of reaching the flow state. In one sense the diaphragm is a muscle like any others, capable of hypertrophy, fatigue, and increases in volume. Ultimately, the volume and endurance of your diaphragm dictates your ability to feed working muscles with oxygen, making it the master regulator of all other muscular work.

The Four Phases of Breathing

Exhalation - Control Pause -Inhalation - Breath Hold 

Exhalation - Clears lungs, decreases heart rate
Control Pause- Moment between exhalation and inhalation
Inhalation - Fills lungs, increases heart rate
Breath Hold - Holds oxygen in lungs for absorption, decreases heart rate

Diaphragm Exercises

Even count breathing: 

Exhale - 4 seconds
Control Pause - 4 seconds
Inhale- 4 seconds
Breath Hold - 4 seconds

^Abbreviated 4/4/4/4

*As heart rate slows down, this number increases(Ex: 10/10/10/10 or 15/15/15/15) 

Parasympathetic Breathing:

Elongate the phases of breathing which LOWER the heart rate, try a 2:1 ratio (Ex: 4/2/2/4 or 8/4/4/8) Stimulates Parasympathetic Nervous System.

Pranayama/rapid breathing: Rapid inhalation and exhalation for periods of time. Stimulates Sympathetic Nervous System.  (Ex: 10 seconds or 20 seconds)

Wim Hof Method: a similar method used by free divers around the world, the Wim Hof Method hyper-oxygenates your blood supply. In my opinion this method is worthy of exploration, but be careful and perform at your own risk. 

Creates a state of hyperventilation, decreases the carbon dioxide content in your blood supply,  helping you hold breath for extended periods of time. I won't post details here but you can google it if curious.

^Warning: can cause dizziness or feinting when done incorrectly
*Perform at your own risk

Monday, October 1, 2018

Time Under Tension

While the health and fitness world is vast, we can find any number of opinions on the way to train. The truth is, our training method is entirely dependent on the results we desire.

Perhaps you had an injury which affects the strength of a major joint or its surrounding tendons. Maybe you experience pain in your lower back from years of wear and tear. 

Or maybe, just maybe, you are one of the rare few who can feel the significant effects of subtle Kinetic signals on your athletic performance. Anyone can benefit from the awareness brought on by Kinetic Flow. Quick and powerful movements are very flashy; they capture our attention as the focus of athletic competition. Type II muscle fibers are often the focus of athletic training, in reaching that “next level” of performance.

The truth is, muscular endurance is just as important. It is in the type I muscle fibers, where the foundation is built for power, where the oxidative reserve is hosted to maintain posture and increase efficiency. In between the moments of explosion, it is muscular endurance which facilitates good position and aides the central nervous system in recovery.

Many professional athletes struggle with chronic and nagging injuries. Everything from tendinitis, all the way up to legitimate ligament tears which have been masked by strong muscles and perhaps even performance enhancing drugs.

There is a yin and a yang to training. There is a time for powerful movements. There is a time for movements of maximal strength. However, when it comes to kinetic balance, and the adaptive triggers to recover from trauma, muscular endurance and stability training reigns supreme.

For the purposes of muscular endurance and stability, let time under tension be your guide.

In my opinion, people are often too focused on the number of repetitions they perform of an exercise. When I see someone pumping out repetitions with poor movement quality, to me it just looks like someone who is programming their nervous system to fire inefficiently.

The time under tension principle requires you to slow down a movement and actually control it. It aides you in targeting your tension into the correct muscle groups, and recruiting those muscle groups in the correct pattern.

Remember that muscle growth is a product of muscular tension and volume. There are different velocities in which you can train, velocities which produce different types of tension within the muscle fibers. Slower velocities emphasize the growth of type I muscle fibers, and these fibers are the building block in balancing your kinetic chain.
Training at high velocities without the previous development of low velocities is like building a house without a foundation. It leads to eventual overuse and breakdown.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a good tempo for muscular endurance/stability training is a 4 second eccentric phase, 1 second isometric phase, and 2 second concentric phase. This tempo is abbreviated 4/1/2.

For example, on a push up repetition, you would descend for 4 whole seconds, hold at the bottom for 1 second, and press up for 2 seconds. That’s 7 seconds of total work time! Talk about time under tension. One repetition in this manner produces more tension in the muscle than a lot of people can produce in five!

This is the secret to really carving out your movement patterns. This stimulates your neural pathways, helping you fit into a movement like a glove, feeling every nuanced firing required to do so. Time is work, time is volume. 

Time under tension training will help attune you to your muscular imbalances, and help you to rebuild the tissues responsible for imbalance. Time under tension training also produces significant muscle damage, so prepare yourself to experience some delayed onset muscle soreness in the post exercise recovery period.

Most importantly, prepare yourself to experience an increase in the quality of your movement, and the signaling of your central nervous system in making these movements more efficient and stable.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Power of the Mind

Chronic pain is a highly demoralizing prospect. The successful management and treatment of chronic pain requires an iron will and steadfast mindset to endure. While the medical industry in our society is notoriously over saturated with the prescription of narcotic pain medications, any viable alternative form of pain relief is worthy of investigation and consideration. Despite our shallow understanding of neuro-biology, the more we learn about the neural pathways of the brain, the more we understand about the power of our brain to influence our physiology.

The term meditation is loaded with stigma. It is commonly associated with a religious context, its roots tracing back over 2500 years. Not all applications of meditation are, however, exclusively religious.

Mindfulness Meditation is a more western, secular, and research based application of meditative principles, principles which in recent years have continued to raise eyebrows in the scientific community. This form of meditation purports the idea of awareness in the present moment, an ability to listen deeply to our sensory perceptions and observe their immediate reality objectively.

Some may be inclined to classify this phenomenon as “focus”, but “focus”is likely an oversimplification of the utility of meditative practices. For example, researchers at the Department of Neuro-biology and Anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine have demonstrated a link between mindfulness meditation and cognitive, supra spinal mechanisms for pain regulation.

The study demonstrated that “Mindfulness-meditation pain relief was associated with greater activation in brain regions associated with the cognitive modulation of pain, including the orbitofrontal, subgenual anterior cingulate and anterior insular cortex”

The underlying structural and myofascial causes of pain are left completely untreated by the use of pain medication. Through my experience working with chronic pain patients, we need MORE awareness and strategy in the domain of pain management, not less. Through meditation, we become more aware of our condition, and through self-education, we can find solutions.

With the state of today’s opioid epidemic, we need to look to any pain management alternatives that we can utilize. Drowning out the natural pain signals of the body with potentially dangerous medication doesn’t bring us to a solution of any permanence. The practice of mindful meditation is being continually and increasingly supported by research to provide a non-opioid process in the brain to reduce symptoms of pain. When coupled with the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, taking a look inward certainly couldn’t hurt us, and it very likely may help us.


Zeidan, F. (2012, June 29). Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. Neuroscience Letters,520(2), 165-173.

Consistency vs Intensity

     People often overestimate the gains they can make through training in the short term. Conversely, they underestimate their potent...