Category Archives: Thoughts

Jiu-Jitsu Is Not Exercise, Neither Is Yoga.

I love Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Yoga. However, I think people need to understand a difference between exercise and sport. Exercise has a regressive and progressive quality that distinguishes it from sport. When you exercise the goal is to find a move that you can do easily enough to repeat but challenging enough that after several repetitions it becomes a stimulus for change or adaptation. For example ,there is a weight that you can squat 10 times but no more and if you squat that weight for a few sets of 10, you will stimulate your body to adapt and get stronger. At that point you need to progress to more load or more reps in order to keep getting stronger. Thus the goal is never to master the 10 rep squat at 95lbs. The goal is to keep getting stronger, faster, better, etc. and do with 195lbs what was once only possible with 95lbs.

When we do a sport like BJJ or Yoga (I know yoga is not a sport, but more of a practice, however, people mistakenly treat it as exercise), we initially find it very physically demanding. Thus it does creates a stimulus that drives adaptation exactly where we need to adapt with respect to the sport. We get stronger and more flexible and our stamina increases and we can train longer and better. Initially people think that all they need is that one thing, BJJ or Yoga, for all their fitness needs. They mistakenly believe that they will keep getting stronger and fitter just by doing BJJ or Yoga. However, the difference with BJJ and Yoga and similar sports is that as we improve at them we actually learn to be more efficient and can perform better without spending the same energy that we did when we first started. As we get better we cease to adapt physically.

Watch a novice and an expert perform the same moves and you are not struck by the physicality of the the expert but rather the ease and fluidity of their movement. Your first few months on the mat, you use a lot of energy to attack and defend against your opponent. Your body adapts quickly to the stress of BJJ and then you are able to train with less difficulty. After a short time you learn to relax as you train and exert energy when you need to and conserve energy when you can. When you reach that stage, it is rare that your BJJ training becomes a physical stimulus. What you start to develop is neurological aspects of technique such as timing and coordination by repeated repetitions and focusing on details and positions. As you advance, Yoga or BJJ training becomes skill practice and at that point in order to stay physically sharp, you need to supplement your BJJ practice with outside training exercises, so that you continue to gain in strength, stamina, speed, power and flexibility.

N Equals 1: Supplements

I always get asked about supplements. What should I take? What’s the best? How about protein powder? Creatine? Pre-workout? Etc. Here’s the easy truth: you probably don’t need them. Here’s the hard truth: you are looking for a quick fix instead of doing the real hard work. That being said, you are probably going to succumb to the marketing at some point and try some supplements. That’s fine, but let me help you help yourself and empower you to not be a slave to the marketing machine and to make better decisions and obviate the need for supplements.

First, ask yourself why you want supplements at all. What are you trying to accomplish or correct with this supplement? “Supplement” is short for “Dietary Supplement” and that suggests that they should be used to get something that is not provided from your diet. So before you go spending your hard-earned money, try fixing your diet. Eat better quality foods and control the quantity of food that you eat.

If you are eating fast food and looking to take protein powder or creatine or some other supplement, don’t. Clean up your crappy diet. Whatever boost in performance is guaranteed by the supplement company can be matched and exceeded by simply eliminating fast food from your diet and cooking yourself some meat and vegetables. If you’re not willing to eat your vegetables, then buying supplements is a waste of time and money.

Still want to drop some money on supplements? Okay. How will you know if they work? You will need to conduct an experiment of n=1. You need to measure your progress in the gym. Get a journal and write down your workouts and how you performed. How much you lifted, how fast you ran and how many reps you did. You can also track other things like your weight, body fat percentage and how much you slept. Go to the doctor and get some blood work done. These are the types of things that you want to keep track of and measure before you take supplements in order to get a baseline, then again during the supplement trial, and, finally, after you stop taking the supplements to see if you return to your baseline.

Furthermore, how will you know whether any progress was the result of the supplements or something else, like eating less or exercising more? You will have to control certain variables so that they do not impact the results. At the very least, you must maintain a relatively constant daily calorie intake. To be more precise, you need to establish a baseline for how much of each macronutrient you are intaking every day. If you are not getting the proper amount of macronutrients in your diet, then that should be addressed before supplementation. You need protein for your muscles, carbohydrates for energy and fats for satiety. Eating too little will cause you to under perform and eating too much will lead to unnecessary weight gain. Finding the proper amount is a process that could take a few months, but it is worth more than all the supplements out there. It is only after you start tracking exactly how much protein, fats and carbs you eat during a day that you can then see how adding or subtracting something affects your performance.

I recommend doing the Zone Diet or Flexible Dieting and establishing a baseline for one month and then adding a supplement in for another month to see if there is any improvement and then discontinuing for several weeks at the end of the month. This will provide a contrast between your baseline and you on supplements. If you haven’t changed how much you’ve eaten and worked out for the month, then at the end you can measure the gains made by the supplement and also whether there was a drop in performance upon discontinuing use at the end of the month.

It seems like a lot of work, but there is a huge payoff. Doing the hard work of eating right will improve your performance and give you the keys to knowing objectively how you are functioning. It allows you to be objective about your nutrition and your performance.

Gua Sha

You’ve probably seen some videos of people scraping themselves with large chrome axe heads.  Well this is an ancient Chinese technique call Gua Sha but nowadays most people know it as Graston.  The technique involves using an edged tool to scrape the skin and break up adhesions in the fascia under the skin.  While it might be nice to have a fancy, expensive tool to do this, all you need is a butter knife or a Chinese soup spoon and some lotion.

I love love love this technique for working on my forearms and hands after hard training sessions.  This is great for both CrossFit and Jiu-Jitsu.  Although bruising is common it’s not mandatory.  You do not have to leave big bruises in order to get results.  As you get more familiar with the technique, you will be able to gauge the proper depth and pressure better.

As you scrape, you will probably hear some sounds like you’re popping bubble wrap.  That’s the adhesions in the fascia breaking up.  Keep at it and you’ll hear the noise start to quiet.  Use lotion so you don’t irritate the skin.

Gua Sha a/k/a Graston from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Self Acceptance

I spend too much time criticizing myself and that keeps me from being my best self. I am sure I am not alone.  Self-criticism is a plague that afflicts almost everyone.  Quiet that voice of criticism.  It is not your friend. Furthermore, it is a liar!  You are not as bad as you tell yourself you are.  You are exactly as you are supposed to be.  You are the sum of all your genes and choices and experiences.  There is no other version of you that could be in this moment. Think about that.  You are exactly the person that you and your parents have created.  That does not mean that who you will be in a week will be the same.  You can make a lot of choices between now and then that will change who you are.  You best decision is your next decision.  Make it count.
People hold on to their self-criticism because they fear that without that voice telling them that they suck, they will not be motivated to improve themselves.  They fear that they will lose their edge and drive to succeed.  That in and of itself is a false belief.  Self-criticism keeps us from challenging ourselves because it fills us with self doubt.  That voice never lets us enjoy what we have already achieved.  It never acknowledges that we are good and therefore we seek acknowledgement and approval from other people.  That voice can push us down a road we no longer need to travel instead of pushing us down a new road that will lead to better things.
Self-criticism is about fighting the past. If you tell yourself that you suck now, it is because of something that happened before that has caused you to be this way.  And the more you talk about it and think about it and worry about it, the more you get angry at the things that you can not change.  Meanwhile, self-acceptance is about acknowledging that you are exactly what all the past actions and decisions have created and now you are left with this result.  You can look at your past actions and how they lead to the current result and choose to make new decisions going forward that will get different results.

Assisted Recovery: Wrists and Forearms

As soon as your training session is over, your body has to start repairing itself for the next session. Your body is naturally designed to recover and repair on its own with a little help from food, sleep and movement. If all you did was ate well, slept well and moved well, your body would naturally recover and repair itself in its own time. However, that process can be a little slow and, let’s be honest, we don’t eat, sleep and move optimally all day every day. I want to show you some things to assist our body’s natural recovery efforts that go beyond eating and sleeping.

When we start to train every day our body can’t keep up and keep repairing itself at such a rapid rate and that is when we start to see sign of overtraining such as:

– Decreased strength and performance
– Persistent muscle soreness
– Elevated resting heart rate
– Increased susceptibility to infections
– Increased incidence of injuries
– Irritability
– Depression
– Loss of motivation
– Insomnia
– Decreased appetite
– Weight loss
– Persistent fatigue
– High cortisol levels

So the obvious answer might be to train a little less. But, let’s be honest, we do not want to hear that. How do some people manage to train multiple times a day, 7 days a week? There is a old adage amongst trainers, “There is no such thing as over training, just under recovery.”

The more we increase our training, the more we must focus on our recovery. I purposely use the term “assisted recovery” to distinguish it from “active recovery”–a term many are already familiar with. Most people think of active recovery as a rest day where they go out and still workout but at a lesser intensity: a long run, a yoga class or playing a sport. Active recovery can be great and effective except sometimes doing more exercise does not send the proper signal to your nervous system that it is now time for recovery mode (i.e. your nervous system stays in fight or flight mode also known as sympathetic nervous system) . When I say assisted recovery I mean that we should aid in the down-regulation of the nervous system and facilitate the recovery process (also known as the parasympathetic nervous system) so that we can train hard again.

One of the most neglected areas on our body is our hands and forearms. We use our hands for everything on and off the mat, yet we seldom take any time to give the muscles (and other soft tissues) any help in recovery. Doing some self-massage with the Yoga Tune Up® balls will help fight inflammation, help lymphatic drainage, speed the recovery process, reduce pain and reduce soreness and fatigue. Additionally, because we store a lot of tension in the hands and forearms, you will see greater shoulder mobility after doing these exercises. Get a pair of Yoga Tune Up® balls and try the following moves after your next training session.

Check In / Check Out
Before beginning check your shoulder mobility. This is a baseline to just see where you shoulders are before we begin to roll out the hands and forearms. You can also take note of how “tight” your shoulders, wrists or forearms feel before beginning. This is a classic yoga move called Gomukhasana and it is great for illustrating shoulder mobility and imbalances from side to side. Use a belt if your shoulders are tight. Try both sides and do not stretch just take about 10 seconds to adjust and see how closely you can get your hands together. The point is to just see how far you can go without stretching specifically to get into this shape. After each of the exercises below, check back in with this move to see if there is any improvement in shoulder mobility. In fact, I recommend checking in after you do your right hand but before you do your left hand. You can feel the improvements as you go and notice the immediate differences on each side of your body as you do each exercise.

Why is this particular pose important? The pose is a great diagnostic for the amount of usable shoulder mobility you possess: flexion plus external rotation in the upper arm and extension plus internal rotation in the lower arm. If someone is missing range of motion the body will find lots of compensatory mechanisms to cheat when it can.  But for practical jiujitsu purposes: we can see how soon you will tap to americanas and kimuras. The less range you have the quicker the submission will cause you to tap. If you have more mobility you buy yourself some time to tap before damage occurs. Also you have more wiggle room to escape.

Gomukhasana Arms for Shoulder Mobility from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Hand Rollout
I call this particular move “The Childproof Lid” because it reminds me of opening a bottle of pills from the drugstore. Press down hard and turn. The fact that the balls are grippy, they will catch your skin and create a lot of shear force which will break up adhesions in the fascia. It will make your hand feel really warm and increase the circulation in your hand. In addition to that technique, try to really smash the ball and roll the whole surface of the palm like you’re making a bread. Do about 2 to 3 minute on each hand and make sure to try the gomukhasana arms in between sides to see if there is any change in your mobility. Also notice how much better your hands feel after doing this.

Day 3 of 30. The Childproof Lid from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Forearm Rollout
The main muscles that control your fingers and your grip are actually in your forearms and pull on the fingers with long tendons that extend down to the finger tips. Therefore, when you use your grip, your forearms get smoked. Additionally, the different muscles in your body should slide against each other like silk sheets, but when they get inflamed and neglected, they start to roughen up like corduroy and eventually turn to velcro. If you don’t do anything about it, it starts to rob you of grip strength because now when a muscle fires it doesn’t just pull the finger it has to pull all the other muscles it is stuck to. There are lots of ways to roll out these muscles. First, put your balls on the table and roll them out by simply pressing your forearm down and moving back and forth. Second, take your balls to the wall and lean your weight into them and make tiny movements with your hands and wrists.

Day 20 of 30. Put Your Balls On The Table. from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

The Tiny Conductor from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Deep Finger Stretching
I learned these finger stretches from a colleague of mine and I had never seen them before. I’m guessing you haven’t seen them before either. They are good and deep and will help your hands a lot. Go slow with these because they are really intense.

Intense Finger Stretches from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

See my other blog post on how to prepare your wrists before class and add these assisted recovery techniques after class. Do this work once or twice a week and over time you will have strong, healthy hands and be able to train harder.

Joint Preparation: Wrists and Forearms

Joint Preparation is strengthening the connective tissues around the joints: the tendons and ligaments. This is different than strengthening the muscles. Muscle tissues regenerate in about 90 days, connective tissue takes closer to 210 days to regenerate. Connective tissue has one-tenth the metabolic rate of muscle that means it takes 10 times longer to heal when it’s injured. The reason I prioritize joint preparation is because Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), by its nature, is based on causing trauma to the joints (armlocks, leglocks and neck cranks), therefore, strengthening connective tissue is a priority if one is to have longevity in the sport. Since it takes a really long time to regenerate connective tissue you need to prepare your joints consistently over a long period of time.

If you look at sports injuries in general, they tend to occur at end range of the joint where the muscles, tendons and ligaments are stretched to their fullest and are therefore their weakest. So joint preparation is basically end range strengthening and conditioning. This can look like weighted stretching or may take the form of various exercises that move the joints through full ranges of motion. By gradually loading the tissues at end range we can condition them to be stronger and more resilient in those positions.

In this article, I will take you through some of my favorite things to do to condition my wrists and forearms. Doing these will help your wrists stay strong and healthy over the years of doing BJJ.

Forearm Blast
This series of exercises will warm up your hands and forearms better than any other exercise I have ever done. There are five exercises that I show on this video. You begin with your arms straight out in front of you and you extend your wrists like you are pushing against a heavy door. Stretch you fingers as long and wide as you can and then make a tight fist while keeping your wrist bent back. Repeat this as fast as you can while trying to extend and flex your fingers as much as you can. Go as long as you can manage. You want to work towards being able to go for a minute. Then repeat this with your wrist flexed and your fingers pointing down at the floor. Now it gets more interesting, bend your elbows 90 degrees like you are a T-Rex and repeat the two variations (fingers up and fingers down). Lastly, with your elbows bent quickly flip your hands over, palms up and palms down, as fast as you can. This works the supination and pronation of the forearm. This whole sequence should take you less than 5 minutes. At first your forearms will feel swollen and tight like Popeye, but then after a minute the hands and wrists will feel really warm and loose. You are probably wondering if the burning sensation in your forearms is normal and healthy. Yeah, kind of. You have many muscles in your forearms that are encased in fascia and all those muscles should be able to slide and glide against each other and move independently. When we do these exercises we become aware that we do not have as much slide and glide as we should. The friction between these surfaces causes a lot of heat. Doing the joint preparation and assisted recovery (my next blog post) will help and you will soon notice that you can go longer and longer with this exercise.

Forearm Blast from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Wrist Stretches
Now that you are warmed up, we can stretch the wrists a little. These stretches are good to help increase some range of motion and also to start loading the joints with a little bit of weight. The four stretches I show on video can all be done from the knees and do not take very long. I recommend doing 10 gentle pulses into each stretch and then holding the last rep for 30 seconds.

Forearm Blast: Part 2 from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Wrist Push-Ups
These wrist push-ups are extremely challenging, but they will build very strong wrists that can withstand a lot of abuse. I recommend starting these standing up against the wall and only doing 1 hand at a time initially (The other hand was just doing a regular pushup. Don’t try to do 1-arm wrist pushups, you fucking savage!). That is how I learned them. Eventually, I was able to do them with both hands simultaneously standing at the wall, then I started doing them from my knees on the floor with one hand and then eventually with both hands. I was at the point where I could do them from my toes, but then I hurt my wrist and had to start back from square one. Even though these exercises didn’t prevent me from getting injured, by scaling back to very light versions of these, I was able to get my wrist back to 100% in a very short period of time. Work up to 5 sets of 5 of each variation. Start with the standing variations first before going to your knees. Also do not be in a hurry. These exercises are for the connective tissues that take a long time to regenerate. You will not see huge wrist muscles all of a sudden. You have to be patient and even if you think the variation is too easy, make sure you can do 5 sets of 5 with perfect form before trying to advance. Even if you stayed at the easiest variation and did them once a week for a year, in a year you wrists would be much stronger and healthier.

Forearm Blast: Part 3 from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Training for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Taking twelve years away from Brazilian jiu-jitsu (“BJJ”) was not good for my skills on the mat.  However, I used that time to do a lot of training and coaching and worked with thousands of athletes around the world teaching CrossFit, kettlebells, weightlifting, mobility and gymnastics seminars.  While it could be said that I’ve dabbled in too many fields, I like to think that doing everything from yoga to strongman training has given me a lot of perspective when it comes to training.  As the saying goes, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  I find that yoga teachers think that yoga is what’s missing from everyone’s training and weightlifters think that everyone needs to get stronger and lift more weight.  Most blackbelts and people who have achieved success at something tend to advocate for whatever worked for them.  It’s only natural.  So when I lay out the things that I think are most important to BJJ athletes to help their training, I imagine my viewpoint might go against what other people have said. And that’s okay.  I am just here to help.

Coming back to the mat after 12 years, it’s taken me a few months to get back to my former level but I feel like I’m there.  In some ways I’m better than I was 12 years ago and in some ways I still have a lot of the same bad habits that I have to work to undo.  But what is important to remember is that now, at 46 years of age, I am in better shape than I was at 34 and I am smarter about taking care of my body.  So while I am an old purple belt and am not some world champion blackbelt or a CrossFit Games athlete, I have a lot of experience and time under tension. I also have a lot of training injuries that I’ve worked through so my recommendations come from a place of experience with an eye toward longevity.

Most blackbelts will tell you that if you want to be good at BJJ, you need more time on the mat. In order for you to log more training hours, you need to be healthy and injury free.  In order to stay strong and healthy what you do off the mat is extremely important.  Most blogs and magazine articles are concerned with optimal training: getting stronger, faster and being generally more awesome all the time.  This thinking is essential for young competitors. That is not who my advice is aimed at (although younger athletes will do well to heed this advice).  My experience is that you can take a 20-something male and throw a ton of training at them (both good and bad) and they will still continue to improve and get better.  Furthermore, younger people can train through injuries just because they’re young and (think/believe) they’re invincible.  I want to talk to the 30-, 40- and 50-year old BJJ athletes that are already starting to feel the wear and tear of training and advancing age.  Time is a precious resource and the older you get, the less likely you are going to be pursuing a professional jiu-jitsu career, so efficiency and longevity are more important than creating an optimal program.  For example, if you wanted to optimize your strength (i.e. get really strong, really fast), you might lift three to five days per week and follow some complicated periodized program and do a lot of complicated exercises.  However, lifting once or twice a week and sticking with 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 big exercises and going as heavy as you can for that day will give you almost all the general strength benefits that you need for BJJ without sucking up a lot of valuable time and energy.

For myself and my athletes I first consider that training time is limited and so our training off the mat has to be efficient and effective.  There are a lot of things that we could do, but there are a few things that we must do.  There are four areas that need to be addressed and trained and if you give them the proper weight and allot adequate time for them it will help you stay strong and injury free and allow you to enjoy your time in the dojo.

The four elements are Joint Preparation, Assisted Recovery, Conditioning, and Strength.   I listed them in what I consider their order of importance.  Furthermore, these four elements have some overlap so the lines can be blurred sometimes.  So doing joint preparation can also make you stronger and help your cardio. For example, doing heavy farmers carries (holding a very heavy dumbell/kettlebell in each hand and walking for distance or time) is not only a form of strength training, but it is also a conditioning workout because your heart will beat out of your chest.  Furthermore, it strengthens the grip as well as the connective tissues in the hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.  Therefore, choosing exercises that have some crossover can be very efficient if you are short on time.  Of course, it goes without saying, that nutrition is probably the most important weapon in your arsenal with regards to health and longevity, so while you read this eat a fucking salad!

I will go into greater detail in future blog posts on how to properly prepare your joints, ideas for recovery and, of course, strength and conditioning.  Meanwhile, keep training and getting better.

Better A Diamond With A Flaw Than A Pebble Without

We have all heard the phrase, “perfect is the enemy of good.”  It is something I have to remind myself of daily.
I am a strength and conditioning coach and a body nerd (anatomy, physiology, movement, yoga, mobility, etc.).  And most of the thinking and writing around strength and conditioning is geared toward optimization.  How can you max out your gains?  What’s the quickest way to lose weight?  What’s the fastest way to get strong?  What’s the best technique to perform this lift? etc.  That’s all great.  As a professional I need to concern myself with the best methods to train and get results.  However, the reality is that most people can’t train optimally (for multiple reasons) and focusing on doing things perfectly will often take valuable energy away from doing things good enough.
Why is chasing perfection impossible?  Let’s consider the most basic barrier to perfection: your genetics.  Just imagine if there was a scientific study that said training 6 days a week is optimal for making gains that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to work best for you and your body.  If scientists had gone and created an experiment to find the optimal training days, their findings would be based on a statistically significant number of people that completed the study.  It would not be based on 100% of all people.  That means there are always people that did NOT respond optimally to the 6 days a week.  Some people responded better to 5 and some did better with 7.
Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without. — Confucius
Another example of genetics that can be a double edged sword is that some people have genes that favor endurance sports and others have genes that favor strength and there are various other athletic characteristics that your genes may favor.  That suggests that if you are lucky enough to like marathon running and you happen to be genetically predisposed to being good at it, you can be very successful (Perfect).  But there is no guaranty that you will like marathon running just because you have favorable genes for it.  Furthermore, sometimes people are drawn to things that challenge them more than things that come easily to them.  So you might be a weightlifter trapped in a runner’s body. In that scenario, you might never be a great weightlifter but will find more joy from it and train harder at it because of the challenge (Good).
So when I think about training myself and training regular people, I seldom concern myself with what is optimal.  I concern myself with good enough and better.  To the type A person reading this, it sounds like a recipe for mediocrity.  We want to have a formula for being the best.  Why should I chase good enough and better?   Because real people spend more time concerning themselves with trying to pick the best program than actually working out.   This problem is not just true of couch potatoes but it also a debilitating mindset displayed by many gym rats.
Somewhere there is someone on the couch googling things like “what’s better weightlifting or cardio?”  “Will lifting make me bulky?”  “How can I get huge like Arnold?”  They are spinning their wheels worrying about what’s best: lifting, cardio, looking perfect, and Arnold.  If they asked “what is good enough to get me started?” “What’s better than sitting on the couch?” They would be better off.  If they decided to just go to the Zumba class five minutes from their house they’d be better off.  Then after they get bored of that they might ask “what’s better than Zumba?”  “What would I like to do?”  They’d be making progress and moving forward.  Slow progress is better than no progress.
Another example is the gym rat that is working out constantly thinking that more is better.  They are always looking for the next new exercise or workout to make those gains.  Those people often waste a lot of time chasing different workouts and worrying about if I’m working my legs, I’m not working my arms and when I’m working my arms, I’m not working my legs.  So they are never satisfied.  I used to spend a lot of time and money researching and buying new gear for the gym and for myself so that I could do a different exercise or add something else to my program.  Ultimately, most of those purchases were a waste of time and money.  I get more benefit working out harder with a few basic pieces of equipment than I do from fancy new toys.  For example, I do not own a bench for bench pressing.  Would it be optimal for developing upper body pushing strength?  Perhaps.  But I find that pushups, dips and floor presses are good enough to work my triceps.  When I see an ad for a bench, I stop and think maybe I should get one, but then I decide to just stop worrying and do some dips.  Maybe you are a powerlifter and want to compete, then you need to bench.  But if that’s not you, there are plenty of ways to get strong that are good enough.
If you are sitting there and worrying about what’s best, stop! Go and do something good.  Enjoy it.

Foam Rolling Isn’t Really Myofascial Release

A client just sent me this video and asked me what I thought.  I am supposed to be a mobility guy and I talk about rolling and doing myofascial release and this videos says that’s BS!  Or does it?

First, watch the video.  It’s an excellent primer on fascia which is the scaffolding of the body.  Fascia is the soft tissue that we try to manipulate when we do mobility work.  When we say we are stretching muscles what we are really talking about is changing the length and tension of the fascial tissues.  The muscle tissue lives inside the fascia and doesn’t really stretch.  The knots or adhesions that we poke and rub are in the fascia not the muscle.  So fascia is really what most people mean when they say “I need to stretch this muscle” or “I have a knot in this muscle.”

Second, as to the claim that rolling or instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation (‘IASTM’) is not myofascial release. He is being too simplistic or perhaps making a broad claim for a bit of shock value to get people to click.  But if you listen to the actual explanations he states that deep pressure and rolling over the skin with a roller or instrument does not cause relative movement between the tissue layers (which I call ‘Shear’ or you can think of as ‘slide and glide’) and is therefore not myofascial release.  Yes and no.  It is true that a traditional foam roller works like that and does not create shear force.  The same is true for some IASTM tools like theracanes or Graston.

One of the reasons I love Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls and recommend all my clients use them instead of foam rollers and lacrosse balls is because they are designed to be grippy and catch the skin and to help create a lot of shear force and create a truer myofascial release than with a foam roller. In the Yoga Tune Up lexicon there a couple of techniques that we use to create more shear force:  Pin & Stretch and Pin, Spin & Mobilize.

In the first two videos below, I use two different Yoga Tune Up balls to create a pin & spin shear on my bicep and on my belly respectively.  Using the ball to spin and catch all the skin and pull it across the fascial layers underneath just like Dr. Spina demonstrates in his video.

In the third video, I use a pin & stretch technique on my quad by tacking down the skin with the Alpha ball and moving the knee joint  creates shear as the muscle lengthens and shortens under the ball and relative to the skin that is pinned down.

So if you really want to create a true myofascial release, you need the right tools and the right techniques.  Get some Yoga Tune Up® balls and play along with my videos and give your foam roller away as a gift.

Day 22 of 30. Gun Maintenance. from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Day 15 of 30. The Twister. from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Day 10 of 30. The Quadzilla from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Why So Much Hate?


The older I get and the more I see, the more I realize that I don’t know everything.  I have always had opinions.  I have always thought that I had a right and fair view of the world, but now I realize I just don’t know as much as I thought I did.  Especially when it comes to knowing other people, I know very little about people and their motivations and their realities.

We all think we understand people and their motivations. We think people fit the labels we put on them.  They don’t.  We see someone and label them as “good” or “bad.”  We always think “we are good” and “they are bad.”  We think all the bad people deserve our scorn and hatred.  All the good people get a pass.  Life isn’t really like that.  I now realize that I know lots of people and they’re all complex.  I know people that are really wonderful and not racist, yet they voted for Trump. I know people that are generally good people when it comes to their job and family but are racist.  I know people that have been to prison for various crimes and have come out and started wonderful families and have great jobs.  I know people that smart and funny but are also pathological liars and criminals.

I know cops and soldiers and firemen.  I know doctors and lawyers and engineers.  I know drug dealers.  It’s not your job that makes you a good person.  It’s not your political party that makes you a good person.  It’s how you treat other people.  Right now most of the country is failing this test.  It’s sad.  I wish I could say I’m totally above it, but I am not.  I am pissed.

Nonetheless I temper my anger by trying to summon as much empathy as I can muster. I want to respect that people are all feeling a lot of emotions and tempers are heated.  My hope is that people will be able to find common ground and love each other despite our differences. My hope is the people look at themselves and their own issues more than they point the finger at others.  I know that’s what I try to do most of the time.