I thought it would be good to publish feedback from clients who were kind enough to share their experience of working with me. Many of these were published on social media as a post with my comments.
Be Activated: Assement / Activation
In February 2017 I was approached by Chris (@lastgambit) in regards to having a Be Activated assessment and activation session to aid his climbing and gymnastics practice. We had spoken briefly before about his training, and I knew he did regular gymnastic benchmark self-assessments, and that he was having some trouble with his shoulder.
The session was really interesting. I've known for quite a while that I lacked hip-flexibility and have suspected it having a knock-on effect on my resting posture, but it's only recently become apparent that this is less flexibility and more my ability to turn on certain muscles… The session with you brought that to the forefront. After the session, I felt noticeably more relaxed; more comfortable. The day after, however, my psoas were really suffering from some DOMS and my abs are a little bit tender… the price you pay for progress. The most significant thing I noticed, coincidentally; I've not been able to do a more than 1 ring muscle up for months, whereas on Saturday, I managed 5 in a row, a handful of transitions and a forward roll… all pain free and all felt really controlled and solid. I'll definitely get another session in with you… but I'll give my abs a bit of time to recover! — Chris Jaques, March 2017.
As you can see in the photo, I had marked-up Chris' scapular borders so that we could see his scapulae rhythm and how things changed post activation. Typical as with most climbers I have worked with, his default resting posture looks much like the so-called upper crossed pattern, which in it's fullest sense entails a forward head posture, increased thoracic kyphosis and cervical lordosis, elevated and protracted (rounded) shoulders, rotation or abduction and winging of the scapulae.
Chris' scapulae control was good but still hampered by his elevated and protracted shoulders. This almost always improves after the initial "Zone 1" (breathing-psoas-glute) work, and further refined as we open the front of the chest.
This is one useful thing to remember, very often a rounded posture is resolved by releasing the front rather than strengthening the back. Think of it as allowing the back to relax by not having resistance, rather than strengthening the back to pull against the resistance of the front. Spending more time opening the front will do wonders for your posture and shoulder range-of-motion and stability.
Do have a look at my "shawshank sequence" video.
It is always a great pleasure to work with someone who knows their body well, and more so someone who takes the time to pass me feedback on how they are getting on. With Chris' permission I have quoted his recent email below.
Email: Chris Jaques. April 21, 2017
So, I've been promising this, but work, life and other things have gotten in the way.
I'll break this into 3 parts, 1 initially, 2, the medium term & 3, the now.
1. Initially. As I mentioned around the time, I felt the benefit immediately, the minor change in activation from my psoas alone was noticeable. The main thing I was looking for was a resolution to my persistent shoulder pain. I've been getting a pain sensation down the left arm, right around the tricep long head. This pain started after an overzealous loading session, and would "come back" through varying activities. After the session, however, that pain was considerably reduced. I had a more comfortable cross-body range (although the pain wasn't completely gone). This was accompanied by being able to do muscle ups on the rings, again. All good stuff so far.
2. The medium term. I've kept prodding bits of myself to try and get some activation, and at times I do a better job of it than others, but I've also spent a bit of extra time working on the posture related things I saw as a result of the session. This has meant a steady improvement across the board—as an example, I can progress on the side lever on both sides (as opposed to only 1). Still have a little pain in that side but it's more manageable.
3. The now. When I overdo it, the pain comes back. It's not completely gone, but it's in a much better place than when I started. I've isolated the pain I get to the mechanics behind how I do dips. Either the range is aggravating an existing injury, or the mechanics are just wrong… I'll work on that, because that must be a relatively new thing (since October). This morning, I did two things I've not managed before; the first was supine grip toes to bar—this is a significant step forward in both flexibility and active strength. The second was a single arm leg-raise. There was no shoulder pain through either of these things, which is what I was hoping for. What I can say for certain is that I'm not feeling the aches of use from either my psoas, or from my rhomboids, as I was at the beginning. This is either that they're slipping back to their old habits, or just becoming more accustomed to doing the work.
The conclusion. The session worked for me in two ways. 1. It did some serious good to some of the muscle groups that were giving me jip. 2. It's helped me to identify the things that weren't working and work out why that might be. For example, I can now "feel" how my sitting posture was wrong—as a result, I'm closer to a straddle and a pancake than I've ever been, and the progress has been much more significant.
I think I would benefit from another activation session in the not too distant future, if only for the assessment side of things (very difficult to be totally objective). So, when I've worked out my current life-trauma (change of contract) I'll be back in touch to arrange one with you.
I recently had the pleasure of working with Jack Sanders of Apeiro Fitness and taking him through a "Be Activated (BAT)" assessment and intervention session.
So post-activation work Jack felt like adding 10kg to his overhead squat, a new PR. Does that look like his hip drive is the greatest limiting factor now? Nope me neither, just look at the speed out the bottom. So we chatted about how to work on shoulder stability and torso/pelvic alignment (watch the bar path wobble) and I have no doubt he will be well on his way upwards.
What's cool about the activation work is that you get to give people confidence in their ability, as they feel their body is now doing what it's supposed to be doing. They then push themselves more, their training stimulas increases and they progress out of plateaus.
Jack is UK based and holds a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science, is an aspiring S&C coach, and undertaking an MSc in Strength and Conditioning later this year.
Jack very kindly wrote about the whole experience on his blog and has allowed me to share it here.
Apeiro Fitness - Be Activated
I recently had the opportunity to meet with London based Tom Herbert and experience first-hand the success of ‘Be Activated’ (BAT), a technique aiming to restore the body to optimal function through a combination of manual therapy and diaphragmatic breathing. BAT, similar to the highly praised Reflective Performance Reset, focuses on alleviating muscle compensations, imbalances and dysfunctions in order to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
The session was a 3 hour marathon of discovery, discomfort and deadlifts. Beginning with posture photos and a discussion on the effect of positive mindset on physiological output, we then moved on to breathing and relaxation techniques prior to starting the hands on work. The activation protocol involved systematically targeting muscle groups and movement patterns, with Tom assessing force production and range of motion before tackling any problems presented using manual therapy. The same tests were then used post activation, often demonstrating an improved muscular contraction and range of motion in the desired muscle. The tests used were excellent at identifying asymmetries and muscle compensations. Regarding my own body, we discovered that a forceful contraction of my quadriceps was greatly dependent upon my ankle moving into dorsiflexion, and we spent a great deal of time on my psoas which appeared to be particularly tight. On the posterior side my glutes and hamstrings were terribly weak, indicating a lack of firing in both muscle groups. Following activation I was forcefully activating my quads with a relaxed foot and boasted a remarkable improvement in posterior chain force production. I could even feel my glutes firing with each step as I simply walked back and forth in the gym.
We spent the final hour working through self activation techniques that could be applied directly before lifting, both during a warm up and in between working sets. Following a number of ramp up sets interspersed with activation of the glutes and trunk, I pulled a 10kg PB in my conventional deadlift (A year since last performing the deadlift in this stance). My set up felt much better, and although there was a slight break in body position as the bar left the floor, the speed and ease of the lift were mind blowing. The same can be said for my overhead squad, in which I similarly reached a 10kg best and a whole new sense of stability with the barbell overhead. As far as value for money goes this was the goldmine. I have applied these self activation techniques in each of my lifting sessions since BAT, not only feeling stronger but lifting with a much greater mind-muscle connection.
While I would love to simply list activation techniques that would bring you similar results, this would not do the art of BAT the justice it deserves. It is a highly individualised protocol that will present issues specific to your body, and having an experienced practitioner to explain the techniques used is essential. The knowledge bombs that Tom dropped during the session were great for my own learning and I came away with a much deeper understanding of the human system as a whole. If you regularly go for a sports massage or spend excessive time on a foam roller I would highly recommend giving BAT a go, it has changed the way I think about movement and performance for the better.