by Jeffrey H. Tucker, DC, DACRB
My background is in Chiropractic, helping people get out of acute and chronic pain. I have spent twenty five years in private practice teaching clients how to decrease pain and improve their health. It has been a great job, and it is something I see myself going for the rest of my life and career.
About fifteen years ago I started taking a post graduate program at my Chiropractic College to pursue my first passion, which was musculoskeletal rehabilitation. I continued to work as a Chiropractor, but I started including more exercise therapy and nutritional therapy into my practice. In essence, I strive to become a Wellness Consultant rather than just dealing with people in pain.
Many of my clients are not ready for the gym yet and need a program that could transition them to the gym. Many of them get injured while working out and training. Sometimes clients have to take a step backward to move forward and sometimes their voyage is not so much about discovery as rediscovery of lost flexibility, strength or speed. I developed a progression of core exercises that I was teaching to my patients to help them get out of pain, create muscle balance, symmetry and strength. Eventually, I started teaching an exercise class at Dance Studio No.1 in west Los Angeles. Many clients needed a class to progress to stronger levels. I started teaching with the intention of preventing future back problems and prepare them to get into better shape and fitness. The people that came for help in improving their fitness levels for everyday life really liked the way that I presented things. So, I have continued with this program over the past four years.
There are two distinct yet interdependent muscle systems in the body, the stabilization system (stabilizers = local muscle) and the movement system (mobilizers = global muscle). Both the local and global muscle systems must integrate together for efficient normal function. Neither system in isolation can control the functional stability of body motion segments (vertebrae and bones). The stabilizers assist postural holding, anti-gravity, and joint stability (support) function. These are prone to inhibition and weakness. The mobilizers assist rapid accelerated movements like we use when training with Kettlebells. The mobilizers are large and superficial muscles (the ones we see on our body). They provide range of movement, and produce high force or power. The mobilizers are prone to over activity and tightness. Once a movement segment has lost functional stability and has developed abnormal compensatory motion, stabilizing structures (both connective tissue and contractile) around these joints become less stiff and more flexible, more lax and have more “give” thus making these segments at risk of abnormal stress and strain.
There are specific indications for low load training of the muscle system. Clients will present with mild discomfort to intense pain during normal daily functions; unguarded movements cause sharp pain; they have very specific pain and/or stiffness in muscles and joints; symptoms associated with static positions and postures (sitting, standing and lying). Some clients come knowing they have unstable backs; some have a history of bad backs. The name of my exercise program is Progressive Body Movement (PBM). PBM is actually a priority system of building strength and flexibility. It’s a very rational method for getting people out of pain, and keeping them out of pain by creating spinal stability and strength.
Many of my clients need to learn what exercises they can do without hurting themselves. As soon as they would start yoga, or Pilates or weight training exercises, they would get a flare up in there low back, shoulder or neck. They had become afraid to exercise because they always hurt themselves afterwards. These clients needed to exercise just so they could get ready to exercise. I learned how to progress people from low load body weight exercises to bands and free weights and Kettlebells.
My tag line is, “We were all given a lifespan, let’s create a healthspan.”
My clients enjoyed the way that I was teaching because it was very much back to old school stuff, low tech floor work, bands, balls, and bodyweight maneuvers. I don’t use any fancy gadgets or machines. I progress them to free weight and Kettlebells. They really liked that, and I made it fun for them.
The key to helping clients and what you can do on your own is practice form before function, and uni-planar motions before multi-planar motions. I have learned to see simple compensations when evaluating client’s movement patterns. I use isolation for innervation of the system and to improve function. But, isolation is great for testing & rehab, not training.
We need to physically train the stability muscles. Strengthening exercises alone will not likely affect the timing and manner of recruitment of muscles during functional activities. With proper stability it makes using heavy weights such as Kettlebells safer and enhances performance.
Recently, a band exercise device called the Gymstick has come in to my rehab and wellness practice. I was in San Francisco at a workshop on the hip, being taught by a British instructor. I asked him if he had any new equipment that he was using in his rehab facility. He said that they were doing a lot of creative exercises with a device called the “Gymstick” and that it was great for core training.
So, when I got home I did my research and ordered the Gymsticks on-line. When they came I started using it for five to ten minutes as part of my own workouts. The Gymstick came with a visual poster of exercises, and I ordered a DVD. I liked it so much I ordered more for my clients and to use in my classes. My clients and students really like it. So, I thought, “I want to become a distributor of this and create an opportunity for groups of people to have Gymstick classes.”
I have been to many workshops and conferences over the years. I have heard some of the best trainers and coaches in the U.S. and none of the presenters I met ever mentioned the Gymstick. It is popular in Europe and just not known here in the United States yet.
To have a great foundation for weight lifting I recommend band work as well. I recommend slow, low effort repetitions and only move through the range that the weak link can be actively controlled. Perform 20-30 slow repetitions or approximately 1- 2 minutes of a given exercise. Initially, when these low load exercises ‘feel’ difficult or high-perceived effort is used then it is likely that that muscles slow motor unit is inefficient and you need to do these maneuvers. If an exercise with body weight, Gymstick, or other bands looks easy and feels easy, then it means there is better facilitation of slow motor unit recruitment. It is best to do local muscle dominant recruitment (Gymstick) on different days than strength training days. This makes it a good tool for rest days.
I have personally taken it on to get the word out there and really promote Gymstick, and the way of training with them. In fact, I don’t feel like I have to sell Gymstick. They sell themselves. As soon as you get someone to come to a class, they are hooked. It’s amazing. The results are quick and fast for stretching, strengthening, and functional training!
One of my clients, she came into my program a size 12 and she’s an 8 now. She feels very happy wearing clothing she hasn’t fit into in a long time. She enjoys feeling healthier and more flexible.
Gymsticks are going to be a great tool for me to make a niche in the market and offer new classes among those training in Los Angeles. It has always been my passion and goal to educate people about diet, nutrition, body work, and training. Los Angeles is very much a Pilates and Yoga town. We have lots of hard core gyms as well. I applaud all of these, but I think the Gymstick offers a good balance for motor control training and increasing a muscle recruitment challenge, as well as improving flexibility, thus increasing the potential to generate force and power.
I am into minimal equipment and basics. I like floor work, Kettlebells, dumb bells and bands for overload training, power and endurance.
Why am I hoping to go to get people more into Gymstick and kettelbells or even body strength training, opposed to using machines? I have never been a proponent of weight machines. I encourage people to get off the machines and get into functional fitness where you are standing and you need to ground yourself and you need to use your core strength and stability. It’s NOT about sitting in a machine and pressing as hard as you can, because that’s not going to do anything except if you are sitting down and pressing against somebody. That’s not real life. Real life is: you’ve got to chase a child around a park or mall; you need to lift and carry heavy objects; and you have sit to long in awful chairs. Gymstick provides low load training and exercises that can optimize slow motor unit recruitment; efficiently teach you to really internalize your power and bring it out when you need to.
Gymstick will help you activate the deeper, more local muscles of the body that help you achieve increasing the segmental stiffness of the spine and decreasing excessive inter-segmental motion and maintaining muscle control during low load tasks and activities. In contrast, using the Kettlebells will help you achieve high physiological load. Both the local muscles and the outer muscles contribute to both stability and mobility roles. The combination of Kettlebells and Gymstick repetitions will help give you endurance and stamina. There is no longer a need to rely on machines, every training session can be done at home.
I think the combination of Gymstick and Kettlebells is so functional. Clients are creating their own drills that are sport specific.
“Gymsticks are here and you don’t know what they are right now, but I am an instructor and I will show you!” (See info for class schedule)
Dr. Jeffrey Tucker: “I have studied with some of the best teachers in the musculoskeletal and nutrition world. I continue to take post graduate courses and seminars and get some more certifications.” You can visit Dr. Tucker at www.DrJeffreyTucker.com where you can purchase the Gymstick he mentions.
My classes have progressed to a more general fitness population that wants to have a more challenging work out. They know that I push them quite hard, but with what I call “my watchful eye” making sure that they maintain good form. They know that I want them to succeed at their goals. Whether their goal is to get out of pain from a sports injury, loss weight, or to become fit, I am going to give them my undivided attention in getting them their safely and uninjured, but I don’t expect anything less than one hundred percent of their effort.