“… Core Instability: A Personal History, Part 2”

I wanted to thank everybody for their questions regarding my last post.

But I need to put a disclaimer here.

Some of the assumptions being made about my experiences with Z-Health is that I somehow didn’t “finish” the “protocols” or that I misused the system or that I didn’t seek the advice of more advanced Z trainers.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

My wife is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and took all the course work for the Z-Health Master Trainer program. She didn’t complete it because I didn’t want to pay for her Master Trainer credential – her job interview. She’s done soft tissue work on me and repeatedly tested me using her S-Phase, T-Phase, and I-Phase neuro tests.

I have had many private sessions with Dr Cobb.

I’ve practiced Z ad nauseum.

The point is, there’s “stuff” missing in the Z world and that’s why I went to see Brett cause he knows both worlds – Z and FMS. I needed a fresh perspective from a different point of view, through a different lens.

Now, on to more positive “stuff.”

We were running around playing frisbee with some friends on Easter Sunday. It was a blast. I noticed two major things regarding this whole “core stability” thing:

  1. I could run, jump, twist, plant, cut without any pain in my hips. Had a little pain in my right knee, but I talked myself out of it. I believe this was just old “programming.”
  2. Courtney was running and jumping on me and I was tossing her and swinging her around just like old times.

Both are significant because I hadn’t felt “put together” for a long, long time. I mean noticeably so. No matter how much I was lifting, I noticed Courtney just felt “heavy.” I’m not saying she’s fat so don’t go there! She’s not. It just felt awkward picking her up, like I was unglued.

Sunday was much, much, much different. And it hasn’t because I’ve been lifting heavy stuff. I haven’t lifted much of anything heavy lately (heavy is relative of course…). I’ve been focusing on fixing asymmetries, particularly a 21 year old shoulder asymmetry (try loading that puppy heavy for that long has left me with some issues) and everything’s been feeling great.

I even tested out this core stability thing last weekend on the platform. Hit 70% and 75% respectively of previous competition bests with ease (I used the power version of each lift, not the competition version). The last time I attempted this, I shut down around 60% which I don’t have to tell you was very, very discouraging.

So what can I make of this and what should you make of this?

Core stability is a real underlying fundamental reflexive pattern. It must be trained. Ignore it at your own risk. I did.

How would you know if you were lacking in core stability?

Well according the available research*, if you’ve ever had a lower back injury you’ve lost your reflexive pattern (the ability of your Transverse abdominus and multifidus muscles to contract to stabilize the spine before movement). Therefore you need to retrain it and re-integrate it into your movement patterns.

That’s about as far as I’m willing to go on the subject. There is a TON of information about core stability and lower back injuries and their correlation.  And by ton, literally thousands and thousands and thousands of pages. Stuart McGill’s works are a good place to look for in depth explanations.

The bottom line for me is this: I’m getting older. The sun is setting on my competitive hopes in my chosen sport. I won’t compete in the Masters division. I no longer have to be right. I am looking for the quickest way  to get where I am going – safely.

That’s why I turned to Brett and Gray and the FMS. Z just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

Sure, there’s some really cool neurological information in there. And yes, for those of you who want to know, I think Z “works,” but only to a point. (I have some other theories about it I’m testing and working through which I’ll report back on in the future…) And yes, I use what I need to and feel is relevant with my clientele. And no, I don’t do much of it anymore because I have what I term hyper-localized global hyper-mobility. Mouthful – think about that for awhile…

But the major thing for me was that Dr Cobb, under my direct questioning, rejected the current theories on the Inner/Outer Unit and their roles in core stability. Therefore, it is not [sufficiently] addreessed/acknowledged in the Z-Health world.

I followed this theory.

It failed my tests, which was to lift heavy weights over my head.

I needed something else that worked for me.

And that’s how I ended up here writing this post.

Caveat emptor, my friends…

(*Hides et al. (1996). Spine. 21, 2763-2769. Hodges and Richardson (1996) Spine. 21, 2640-2650.)

25 comments… add one
  • Erik Petersen Apr 8, 2010 @ 9:37


    Sounds like the “old” CHEK stuff that many people pooh-poohed (and by the way, didn’t properly understand) were spot-on. The real problem for the consumer (those purchasing RKC products) is that the only way for the buyer to be fully aware and understand (their responsibility as you say), is to either sit on the sidelines, forever pondering which path to choose. Or, to purchase everything that is currently in vogue conveniently determined by the powers to be, lining their pockets with gold. I’m not arguing here at all, merely asking a simple question. How does one disseminate information and get to the core of why people choose sides, systems and alliances (why did FMS people side with RKC, is there something kept secret, is it all about money). I do like Gray’s stuff, just so you know. I just like to know the truth.

    • Maurice Burrows Apr 9, 2010 @ 1:27


      That’s the problem with having a choice, you have to choose.

      The Z vs FMS ‘debate’ is Pepsi vs Coke all over. Some people like Coke, some prefer Pepsi, others like both but prefer Coke with their Jack Daniels .

      Use what works, if it doesn’t work try something else. Be happy that Geoff found a solution to his problem.

    • GEOFFN Apr 9, 2010 @ 7:13

      Erik – It’s kind of similar. Where Chek missed the boat was the whole “drawing” in as the mechanism for achieving core stability. Honestly, the way you disseminate info is to go with LONG TERM track records. What I missed out of the gate with FMS is the long term data to support the validity of the screen to pick up on asymmetries as a predictor of injuries. I like to know the truth too. In fact, I always seek the Truth…

  • Russ Moon Apr 8, 2010 @ 18:32

    Mon – 15 cycles of 15:15 5 rep 2 arm swings w Beast
    13 cycles of 15:15 5 rep 2 arm swings w 32 kg
    Tue – in gym
    Wed – 10 X 5 1 arm presses w 32 kg each arm
    2×3 reps dual snatch w 32 kg

    • GEOFFN Apr 9, 2010 @ 7:09

      Russ – You continue to get better and better! How’d those presses feel after all the TGUs?

      • Russ Moon Apr 9, 2010 @ 12:32

        The ending press position was far more vertical, elbow winding up next to my ear, with a better shoulder socket position, noticed my lats firing even more.

        Bulldogs deliver today – I just want to do some deadlifting as I think that will help my leg and hip movement in the 2 arm swing and it seems to be a great core conditioner. Per Master RKC Instructor DuCane, I tried it and it worked the way she said, just want more weight to make me grind more.

        I have a surprise en route for you which I believe you will find interesting.

  • Logan Christopher Apr 8, 2010 @ 20:11

    Geoff are you going to be going into some of the drills that helped you? Is there a part 3?

    • GEOFFN Apr 9, 2010 @ 7:09

      That’s a great idea, Logan, thanks for asking. 🙂

  • Tim Anderson Apr 8, 2010 @ 20:57


    I’ve been on a similar journey as you have. Over the last few months I’ve been pondering questions about FMS and Z. Here are my latest thoughts:

    God designed us. He made us all; all with the same movement patterns, mostly all the same joints. So if you had to choose what to focus on, what would make more sense? Focus on movement patterns that we all should have or focus on joints; ALL THE JOINTS? If we all obtain these movement patterns by developing and learning to move, these patterns must be extremely important. Our bodies work wonderfully until we stop using our patterns, we get imbalances, we get joint issues. We are made to move.  No one moves anymore (like we should; too much technology).

    The joints need to be moved, no doubt. But maybe it is our movement patterns that really need to be in place, since they are how we learn to move. If the movement patterns are in place, maybe the joints will take care of themselves? I know nobody is completely right, but MAYBE a focus on joints, is completely ignoring our development.

    Just my random thoughts…


    • GEOFFN Apr 9, 2010 @ 7:15

      Tim – Thanks for stopping by. Great points about the patterns v. joints. Something to ponder for sure. Do you think patterns v. joints is similar to addressing root causes v. treating symptoms?

  • Brett Jones Apr 8, 2010 @ 21:44

    Gray had already started using the KB in his corrective strategies – then came through the RKC and in the process of he and I working together the CK-FMS program was developed.
    It is a good synergistic situation.

    BTW – I met Gray back in 1995 while working as an ATC in Virginia and was at the first ever FMS workshop in 1998. Lost touch for a while and then gave Gray a KB lesson as I was moving cross country in 2006 – the rest as they say….

  • Betsy Collie Apr 8, 2010 @ 22:57

    I’d just like to add my two cents as well. Why anyone would ever think you can train for strength without core stability is beyond me… really? Or any form of fitness or movement for that matter…C’mon. We know in a nut shell what the core is basically designed to do, provide stability and/or provide power through muscle contraction. without it you are useless, dead in the water, sloppily flopping around, or worse yet injured… Take it from someone who knows low back injury and core stability from many, many years of dance and fitness… Without the core stability that I currently have I am sure I would feel major effects from my old low back injury from a horse fall as a child…

    As forthe ZHealth, CK FMS, etc. I will say it again… There is NO ONE WAY. There will NEVER BE. My advice… do not over analyze it, do not take it for it’s word as the end all be all. Why? Because just like in sales and marketing (my career path for awhile) it boils down to convincing the buyer that they need and must have this product…. Everyone is marketing something…. So train your body smart… I have been very fortunate to have some incredible instructors in my dance career who have taught me well how to use my body. Movement, flexibility, stability (core and otherwise), and total body strength go hand and hand when perfecting the art of dance just like any other sport. Truthfully, probably even better…. I personally get a major kick out of training… But the difference now is I am training for longevity…To be able to continue to lift the kbs(heavy ones too:-)), run and jump, dance, and move all injury free….

    • GEOFFN Apr 9, 2010 @ 7:08

      Betsy – Nobody’s trying to train for strength without core stability. You’re missing the point. The debate is over the mechanism for achieving core stability.

  • Erik Petersen Apr 9, 2010 @ 8:03

    Thanks, Geoff and Brett. Glad that you understood what I was asking. I appreciate it!

  • Betsy Collie Apr 9, 2010 @ 15:02

    I guess I should have been more specific… My first comments were in reference to Part 1 of your core stability pursuit blog post. The second paragraph was in response to this dialogue of the path to achieving core stability. It starts with movement patterns within your bodies’ limitations safely. Which means FMS could prove to be extremely useful for that. And so could an MRI (:=) I had one and now I know why I have some of the asymmetries and compensations the way I do. I agree on Tim’s two major points…God created this awesome “machine” we call our body AND there is too much Technology…hence turning off my computer now… Happy Spring!Covered in Pollen, Betsy

  • Russ Moon Apr 10, 2010 @ 14:50

    Friday – 20 sets of 10 deadlifts with dual 32kg
    3 sets of 10 cleans with dual 32 kg

    Saturday – TGU 4 reps with 32 kg – felt a bit burnt from the deadlifting
    Performer – “The Repeater” with 16kg both sides, no problem. Will do that some more, then attempt it with 24 kg.

    Bulldogs have arrived, my new dead lifting friends. Keeping it simple.

  • Russ Moon Apr 10, 2010 @ 14:50

    Friday – 20 sets of 10 deadlifts with dual 32kg
    3 sets of 10 cleans with dual 32 kg

    Saturday – TGU 4 reps with 32 kg – felt a bit burnt from the deadlifting
    Performed – “The Repeater” with 16kg both sides, no problem. Will do that some more, then attempt it with 24 kg.

    Bulldogs have arrived, my new dead lifting friends. Keeping it simple.

  • Russ Moon Apr 14, 2010 @ 16:53

    Reps Rounds 15:15
    2 Arm Swing Beast 5 15 p1
    Bulldog 5 10 p2
    32 kg 5 10 p3
    24 kg 5 10 p4

  • Russ Moon Apr 15, 2010 @ 18:29

    Sets Reps
    15-Apr-10 Deadlifts GTG
    16kg 1 10 10
    24kg 1 10 10
    32kg 1 10 10
    40kg 1 10 10
    48kg 1 10 10
    dual 24’s 1 10 10
    dual 32’s 2 10 20
    dual 40’s 4 5 20
    Total Reps 100
    Tension, holding static at the top hips and knees locked. This has to help my swing and snatch or at least I hope it will.

  • Russ Moon Apr 17, 2010 @ 18:57

    Sets Reps Total Reps
    17-Apr-10 Goblets Squats
    16kg 1 10 10
    24kg 1 10 10
    32kg 1 10 10
    40kg 5 5 25
    Dual 24 kg Front Squat 1 10 10
    Close Grip Tricep Push-Up 3 20 60
    30 minutes 125 reps
    *tweaked my back, The “Bulldog” has some bite to it.

  • Russ Moon Apr 18, 2010 @ 21:33

    Reps Rounds 15:15 Total Reps Time
    18-Apr-10 Dual Press 24kg 5 7 35
    5 4 20
    5 4 20
    5 4 20
    5 1 5
    100 20 Min

  • Russ Moon Apr 19, 2010 @ 23:53

    This somehow connects I just don’t know how yet.

    Roll to Press 5 reps each arm w 44 kg with static hold work and rotations.
    Single Kettlebell press 32 kg X 10 x 2sets
    44 kg X 5 X 5sets

  • robert Apr 24, 2010 @ 0:33

    In my experience Z health ( I have home studied and practiced the first 2 phases) works well for:

    1. Getting in touch with parts that may have dead communication with your brain
    2. Somewhat helpful for freeing up stubborn joints (sometimes)
    3. Helpful for warm up AND recovery especially as I just turned 50!
    4. Provides interesting insights depending where the eyes go during an exercise (in Yoga this would be called the drishti or gaze). For example my squat feels more “even” when my eyes are looking to the right.

    FMS (I have followed along and watched the DVD series from last year’s RKK/FMS weekend) and before that watched the presentation on Mike Boyle’s DVD set AND read Gray’s book. S0…..

    1. Also good for warm up but AFTER any Z health or joint mobility exercises. It helps solidify the movement pre for the day.

    2. Gets me very much in touch with my weak links, and has very much helped me figure out strategies to address them.

    3. Has taught me to dial back and work on more basic stuff. The result? Slowly, but surely I am getting rid of aches and moving better. Shoulders are more “stable,” hips are moving better and “core” is reacting faster and stronger

    4. Works well in conjunction with a shortened Yoga session. FMS at the beginning of the workout, maybe sprinkled throughout, and even incorporated in the recovery/warm down of Yoga. At 50 years old this kind of stuff is more useful than ever.

    So I get something out of both.

  • Mike Perry Apr 27, 2011 @ 14:59

    Great Post Geoff!

    I have taked the FMS and Z -health R and I and here is my 2 cents.

    R phase stuff is great and I have had success with it. Lots of good drills, some of which are in super joints. I use some Z drills and more FMS drills than anything else and I have had great success. I don’t focus on too many DJM because its not my goal nor my clients.

    I use Z on my off days to just get a little movement where I need it. The rest of the session is soft tissue/trigger point and re-patterning drills.

    The FMS drills/exercises seem to work better for my clients because it gives them a clearer path to better movement. I often find that some Z drills work some days and other days not so much.

    Clients and athletes need consistency more than anything else. Why would I give them different drills each time they train when they never get good at any specific movement or pattern?

    I choose to train movements now and I know it works. Babies roll, crawl and squat perfect. No toe-pulls needed.

    With all of that said, The info from the Z courses is amazing in itself. I have learned so much about the CNS from the courses and for that I am glad I went.

    Just my 2 cents

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