Archive for September, 2014

Three Misconceptions Behind Corrective Exercise

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

By Kevin Murray
Function First Director of Education

Tight and Weak, Stretch and Strengthen.

“The biology of pain is never really straightforward, even when it appears to be”. Lorimer Moseley, a renowned neuroscientist and pain researcher succinctly articulates the wonderfully puzzling, yet astonishingly complex nature of working with the chronic pain population.

For years, an adored approach to working with clients from a corrective exercise perspective has been labeling various muscles as being unyielding and “tight”, and tagging their antagonistic counter parts as feeble and “weak”. Though this outlook can be effective, utilizing this strategy presupposes several things.

The most obvious presupposition is that tight muscles are directly responsible for the source of pain. Remembering that “pain is never really straight forward” and muscles are part of a ubiquitous, interdependent whole-istic system, it’s rather audacious to conclude a tight muscle is the sole perpetrator behind the chronic pain suffer. Make no mistake; short or hypertonic tissue can wreak havoc on an individuals’ structure, disrupting the harmonious tensional balance resulting in excessive compression to delicate regions.

If this is the case, maybe the question that needs asking is “why is the tissue tight in the first place?” Perhaps the tissue is tight due to an up-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system to increase stability around a specific joint. Another reason may be the client has impaired propriceptive input due to an old injury, or is lacking in areas of motor control. In any case, stretching the tissue may in fact put the body at greater risk for injury.

Additionally, many clients reference how “tight” particular muscles feel, and intuitively want to stretch them out. What feels like tight tissue may not necessarily equate to an actual shortness in the tissue itself. If an area of myofascia is eccentrically locked long, therefore having lost much of its elastic properties to recoil, than stretching already elongated tissue may exacerbate the symptoms’ long term.

Second, due to longitudinal and areolar force distribution, coupled with our understanding of bio-tensegrity, the source of movement dysfunction may be quite distant from where pain is actually felt. The temptation to focus on where clients’ feel their pain is naturally strong. However, a comprehensive understanding of how forces are mitigated and distributed is critical when working with the chronic pain population.

Lastly, the sensation of tightness may be related to current or unresolved biopyschosocial stressors. Pain is always the output. Nothing has the element of pain, except that which the brain represents as being painful. This means that pain may in fact be related to any previous physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological traumas that have yet to be resolved. While stretching a tight muscle and strengthening its weak antagonist may in fact be a successful intervention for some, to say this approach will work for all clients’ experiencing chronic pain is foolhardy.

Corrective Exercise will “fix” your clients
Words have a powerful force attached to them. They have the potential to inspire people to limitless heights of achievement. However words can just as easily, and perhaps even more rapidly, change your chronic pain clients’ perception of any given situation, and even themselves.

What does the word fix have built into it? “Fixing” presupposes that something is broken. Fixing puts the onus and responsibility on the corrective exercise professional, and not on the client. This is not a recipe for creating lasting change. Furthermore, is anyone really broken?

Words have meaning directly built into them. Additionally, words said with enough emotion, intensity and repetition can create an identity, one that’s either empowering or disempowering.

What if an environment was created where clients’ were encouraged to modify their habitual language patterns? Could this be an impetus for creating lasting change even before the assessment and exercise intervention takes place? Becoming acutely aware to the power of language allows us to create a fresh canvas for our clients to begin designing a new biological, psychological and social blueprint.

This seemingly small shift provides a platform for all clients to be responsible (response-able) for their own chronic pain limitations. A new blueprint that has the capacity to positively influence and enrich all aspects of their personal and professional lives, including their pain and movement limitations.

Foam Rolling & Pain
Clients’ seek out corrective exercise experts for a variety of reasons. Most are desperately looking for a long-term solution to their chronic pain concerns. A foam roller can be a positive catalyst within the programming process. However, a foam roller should never supplement or supersede strategic and purposeful movement.

Foam rolling can be awkward and challenging for many with chronic pain and movement constraints. On top of that, clients often find it painful, which is paradoxical to their ultimate objective. This begs the question “does foam rolling have to be painful?”

Contrary to current perceptions, foam rolling does not need to be painful to be effective. A soft foam roller provides a first-class environment where tissue can re-hydrate. An environment where gentle pressure and compression is applied can increase the hydrodynamics surrounding various layers of connective tissue, further facilitating the glide and slide of the tissue, which in turn can dramatically improve joint motion.

Crossing the clients’ foam rolling threshold from discomfort to pain is counter productive. Foam rolling should always be purposeful & strategic, and complimentary to the corrective exercise programming syntax and overall movement based outcomes.

The Function First Approach is unique in that there is not a “one size fits all” blueprint, and no black and white template. Each client is different, and so is their pain. Pain is complex, and designed to serve an ultimate purpose. Simply stated, we’ve got to be dynamic in our approach rather than ridged.

When working with individuals from a corrective exercise standpoint, we must ask the body, rather than tell it.
This enables each corrective exercise to build off the previous, providing a powerful platform to launch each client into pain free living. The future of corrective exercise has arrived, and the Function First Approach is The Exercise Alternative for Pain Relief.

Join us as a Pain Free Movement Specialist

25 years in the fitness industry has come to this

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

In all of my years of teaching and writing I’ve never shared my journey because I feel it can be perceived a self promoting, which is never my intention. But I’ve decided to share some of it with you today. This is a journey that is far from complete but one that I felt has accumulated enough academic training, research review, practical experience and business acumen to finally put together a curriculum based on what we do best.

What I am going to share with you is not to try to impress you but to impress UPON you that you too can have a profound effect on people’s lives; not just within your zip code but around the world. Furthermore, you don’t have to work at “market value” putting in 70 hour work weeks often with people that don’t ever want to change.

As I write this, I have had clients come to see me from 15 different countries and 33 states. Just last week I had a pilot/surfer fly from Puerto Rico to work with me at Function First. This week I’ll see a university Dean coming in from Los Angles and I’ll have a Skype follow up with a retired attorney in Jackson Hole, WY who saw me in San Diego two weeks ago.

Because of the mental and emotional commitment I invest in every appointment with my chronic pain clients I never see more than 20 appointments per week. The earliest I see my first client is 9:00 a.m. and the last appointment I take is at 5:00 p.m. If I work on the weekends it is to teach (workshops, conferences, consulting)-no clients. My schedule is my own. I see my kids off to school in the morning and have dinner with them at night.

Please believe me when I say that I am a life-long learner and I’m humbled by the complexity of the human body and psyche daily; and without doubt there are scores of people much smarter than me. My success rate with clients is not perfect and I would be a delusional ego-maniac if I claimed I could help everyone at any time. However, when you bring together everything that we do with a client we have very often been successful where others smarter than me have not; and that is because it is not just about knowing anatomy and biomechanics. It is what we deliver in programming and how we deliver it to meet the physical, psychological and emotional needs of each client.

Many of my clients thought they had tried everything. Clients who have come to me after visiting the world renowned Mayo and Cleveland clinics described their visit as a “last resort”. Others who have been under the care of the best medical doctors, treated by multiple physical therapists and chiropractors were to find the results they hoped for only after coming to Function First. We delivered by meeting the client where they were and walking them down a path of progress that no one us had shown them.

The clients who seek me out today are not who I thought I would be working with after completing my undergraduate degree in exercise physiology back in 1989. The personal training industry was in its infancy. My emphasis was in corporate fitness and my first job out of school was with Campbell Soup Company in Camden, New Jersey-one of the earlier pioneers in worksite wellness.

California was calling and after a year I left New Jersey to begin my graduate studies at San Diego State University. Along with my course work I completed 1800 clinical hours in the athletic training room and graduated with a Master’s degree in biomechanics and athletic training. Yet I never sat for the NATA exam for athletic trainers because to me it was most about triage and short term rehab. This is a necessary but unfortunate consequence of most athletic training environments. Instead, I was after big picture and long term solutions.

My first job out of graduate school was at Pete Egoscue’s clinic in Del Mar. The Egoscue Method was my first real introduction to looking at the human body globally and functionally. This was also my first real introduction to the chronic pain population.

Having recently completed my own research project for my Master’s thesis, my co-workers considered me a research “snob”. But I used that critical thinking during my 3 years with Egoscue to become his Director of Education and grow his training platform. I owe a debt to Pete Egoscue because he did change the way I viewed the body.

In 1994, a couple of other Egoscue disciples and I started Function First. This month marks the 20th anniversary of Function First and I am the only founder still with the company. Needless to say a great deal has changed in those twenty years. The way I work with a client today and the way I worked with clients then has evolved tremendously. We are always learning and trying to improve.

That is why I am ready to share my passion and dedication to what we do with you so that you can take it and make it your own. So that practitioners like you can take the tools in our curriculum and empower people to better their lives the way we do. The launch of this curriculum was no quick information product thrown together for a profit. This was two years in the making with no intentions of being released until it represented the quality and thoroughness of everything that we do at Function First.

You think helping someone lose weight is fulfilling? Try on a hug from a client who just a week before would have given up her entire limb to amputation if she thought it would have stopped the nerve pain she suffered with for the past 8 months.

The recent release of our Pain-Free Movement Specialist has generated a lot of interest and attention from those familiar with my work and others in the fitness, rehab and medical fields. We are grateful for all of you who have already started to benefit from my 25 years of experience.

Let’s face it; we knew that we were making a bold statement when we named our curriculum the Pain-Free Movement Specialist. But we knew that what we are offering is so much more than just corrective exercises. Therefore, it did not make sense to limit the scope of interventions for the client we wanted to serve.

Although I’ve taught principles we use for more than 17 years to trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors and medical doctors from around the world-it was always in a way for them to fit it into their paradigm.

As we prepared this curriculum, we asked ourselves a very important question: “What is it that Function First does so well that individuals would travel from all parts of the world to seek out our services?” When my Director of Education Kevin Murray and I answered that question; we realized that the only way to make this curriculum authentic is to fully expose to you everything that creates our success.

We are proud of the fact that we have created something very special and unique because it is 100% based on exercise and self-care. You owe it to yourself and the hundreds of clients whose lives you could personally change with the skills you will gain moving from Level 1 all the way through Mastery Academy Level 4.

The wave of those in need is already upon us. 1.5 BILLON people globally are in chronic pain. Movement is life and they don’t know where to turn to learn how to move better and improve their function in a way that is not damaging or threatening to them. Let us help you help them get their lives back.

Your opportunity is now. Establish yourself as an expert and build a business and lifestyle that you’ve always wanted with a curriculum based solely around working with the person in pain. The PFMS curriculum is your opportunity to serve this population that is desperately searching for a pain-free solution. Position yourself as the expert to meet their needs.

We look forward to partnering with you on this journey.


Anthony B. Carey M.A., CSCS, AHFS
CEO Function First
2011, 2012 & 2014 San Diego’s “Best of” Health and Fitness Club
2010/2011 San Diego’s “Best Of” Personal Trainers/Studio
2009 Personal Fitness Professional Magazine Personal Trainer of the Year
Author of The Pain-Free Program: A Proven Method to Relieve Back, Neck, Shoulder and Joint Pain
Inventor of the Core-Tex™

P.S. We’ve broken up the Level 1 curriculum into Parts A and B allowing you to split into two payments and making it easier on you.