Strength: noun. the ability to overcome.

The ROOT Cause Of [Many] Aches, Pains, And Injuries*

by GEOFFN on April 10

*[BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional. Just a dumb trainer who’s figured out how to finally lift heavy stuff again after 10+ years of trying. If you have active or chronic pain, or an acute injury, go see your Medical Doctor. What I’m about to present is based on the research, observation, experimentation, and practice of myself and a few others. Proceed and read with caution. This may or may not help you out.]

I know A LOT about aches, pains, and injuries. Too much in fact. And it’s not because I’m married to a DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) either.

Nope.

I’ve been going to the doctor for knee pain since I was 13. I remember going out for the cross country team my freshman year of high school but having to quit due to excruciating knee pain.

Then when I was 16, I dislocated my right patella while wrestling. (Later verified by my orthopedic surgeon through x-rays.) My coach put it back in, and I put an icebag on it, and wrapped it in an ACE bandage. I was wrestling again the next day. From that day on I had chronic right knee pain in everything I did. EVERYTHING. Takedowns. Running, jumping, kneeling, walking, climbing stairs. Everything.

Things only got worse when I started lifting heavy. I avoided squatting for the first two years of weight training cause of the knees. Eventually, I “manned up” and got under the bar and fell in love with the beautiful brutality of a heavy squat.

In spring of 1998 I “sprained” my left SI joint squatting and that put me out about 3 to 4 months, following one of the corrective exercise guru’s cues.

And then in 2002 I injured my lower back deadlifting – so bad in fact – that my body spasmed to form a protective brace from my chest to my hips. I couldn’t bend over for a week. In fact, my diaphragm spasmed so I couldn’t even take a full/deep breath. It was all shallow breathing for a week.

Fun stuff.

By this point my knees hurt so bad to squat I couldn’t get down without 225lbs on my back. I’d put the bar on my back and literally free fall into the bottom. It reminded me of popping the clutch on your car.

Meanwhile, I’d been doing a bunch of corrective exercise (since 1998 actually with the corrective exercise guru’s home study course), including self-myofascial release on the foam roller. And I’d gotten really good at “activating” my transverse abdominus too, despite my mishap back in ’98.

In January 2005 I tore the labrum in my right hip. That was fun and a lesson in the futility of alternative medicine. Four months later I took a cortisone shot just to get some relief.

In September of 2005, I did the same thing to the left hip. No alternative medicine or cortisone this time.

Unfortunately, but the end of the year, I could no longer even sit on the toilet (sorry to be so graphic) my knees hurt SO badly. You know that sensation when you hit your thumb with a hammer? Now double that. That’s how each knee felt. I literally had to use my arms and hold on to the sink to sit on the john. How sad.

This is as low as I could squat without excruciating pain. January 2006: This is as low as I could squat without excruciating pain.

 

At that time, I got involved in and subsequently became a very vocal advocate of a “performance” system simply because the guy running it helped me get out of pain. (And got me hooked on unwittingly paying him LOTS of money to stay out of pain.)

I took that system to it’s logical conclusion and almost blew out my back again – probably permanently.

At that point I quit using his stuff and called one of my buddy’s who teaches for another movement system and he “diagnosed” the problem.

I had no “reflexive core stability.”

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

He gave me a couple of exercises that made me sweat, huff, and puff, almost as much as a kettlebell complex. The sad part is that I was lying on my back, it involved rubber bands, and I only did 3 reps on one leg, and 2 on the other then I was done.

It was the “reflexive core stability” thing that got me.

And it’s what’s getting you too.

Well, not exactly.

Reflexive core stability is a “subset” for lack of a better word, for “reflexive stability.”

And it’s what you’re missing that causes your aches, pains, and even overuse injuries. (Not contact injuries from sports – like ACL injuries from getting hit in the knee playing football.)

What is “reflexive stability?”

It’s your body’s subconscious ability to anticipate and control movement. Specifically, to stabilize and move the right joints using the right muscles at the right times, at the right speeds to get whatever job it is you’re doing, done.

Whether it’s running or jumping or even lifting submaximum and maximum loads, your reflexive stability allows you to get it done – and here’s the KEY point – WITHOUT thinking about it.

(SIDENOTE: Heavy strength training, including advanced calisthenics, like gymnastics exercises, requires active thought – or feedforward tension. Traditional athletics should not.)

Reflexive stability, as the name suggests, is based on your reflexes.

These reflexes get “dull” like a knife blade, from lack of use (disuse, misuse) and so your body no longer functions, or operates, the way it was designed to.

How and why? We’ll save that for the next few posts.

As a result, you develop “compensations,” which are your body’s way of surviving and keeping you moving. We now call these “movement dysfunctions.” And as a results of the compensations, when you go to move, one of several things happens to cause aches, pains, or injury:

  1. Your joint moves, but the wrong muscles stabilize and move it, and so it moves incorrectly (Trendelenburg’s Gait comes to mind here).
  2. Your joint doesn’t move well, so other joints which aren’t supposed to move as much move more (thoracic spine and lumbar spine come to mind here).
  3. Your joint moves, but the muscles stabilizing and moving it are moving at the wrong speed(s) – like a muscle pull when running.

And because of that, we seek modalities and treatments that address the symptoms, but don’t fix the underlying root cause – restoring your reflexive stability (also known as “reflexive strength.”)

What have I been able to accomplish since I “discovered” this idea of restoring reflexive stability?

Well, bilateral chronic and acute knee pain is no longer an issue. (I can sit on the can and get off it with ease – just in case your wondering. There’s a mental picture for you that you can’t take back. You’re welcome. ;-] )

Reflexive core stability is back and working better than ever. I can do bodyweight Pistols all day long. Got the One Arm One Leg Push Up too. And, I’ve actually been setting some “real” strength PRs as of late – hitting numbers I haven’t hit 10 to 15 years. (I’ll show you some of those videos too.)

In the meantime, how do you know for sure that you need to regain your reflexive stability and how do you go about doing so?

More on that in upcoming posts.

Feel free to leave a comment or question below.

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