Maximal performance happens when you are not closed and guarding, but open and able to respond immediately to the demands placed upon you. Your nervous system underlies this all, controlling what you can and cannot do.
Compensation patterns are the main cause of non contact injuries, as the body shifts primary control from low-responsive muscles to higher-responsive “cheat” patterns.
The body keeps the score of how you experience the world, changing and adapting to protect you from future harm and allowing you to continue to move despite previous injury or trauma. Tension and compensation patterns develop to stabilise where stability is lost impacting your mindset, breathing, mobility, flexibility, movement and ultimately performance.
However you CAN change your nervous system state, and IMMEDIATELY change the above.
Booking a session
I am London, UK based, and if you are interested in experiencing a session personally, or would like me to work with you and your team and / or athletes, do get in touch. Though qualified in all three overlapping systems, I teach the RPR® wake up drills™.
- Level 2 Be Activated (Douglas Heel) Practioner
- Level 2 Reflexive Peformance Reset (RPR) Coach
- Chapman’s Reflexes (Paula Nutting) Therapist
For more information, or to book session, please email me directly: email@example.com
Reflexive Peformance Reset® (RPR®)
Reflexive Performance Reset® (RPR®) founded upon Douglas Heel’s Be Activated system allows you to directly impact your nervous system state through breathing practice and hands-on wake up drills™.
What RPR is: A system of breathing and neurological drills that empower you to make instant improvements in performance.
Why RPR works: It allows you to reset harmful compensation patterns that cause pain and limit performance.
In 2010, world class sprint coach Chris Korfist invited Douglas Heel to the US to talk about his Be Activated technique, a system primarily used by medical professionals that was achieving incredible and immediate improvements.
Chris experimented with the system before sharing it with renowned strength coach and developer of Triphasic training, Cal Dietz. Cal then shared the technique with world champion powerlifter and coach, JL Holdsworth, and all three coaches saw that the system had incredible power to effect changes in performance and injury prevention, not just injury rehabilitation.
RPR® is sophisticated enough that it can explain almost every non contact injury you have ever seen and help prevent them from happening again. At the same time, RPR® is simple enough that a ten-year-old can use it.
The RPR® wake up drills™ and Be Activated activations stem from a strong background in the nervous system and its links to the lymphatic congestion of muscles and viscera. These techniques facilitate “neuromuscular reflexes” that are also used and taught by musculoskeletal specialist Paula Nutting.
We mostly use the muscles we use the most
The body has a priority to move, and movement requires the stabilisation, flexion, and extension of the hip.
Though hard to imagine in our modern world, if the body cannot move (i.e. hunt, carry, escape, procreate, etc), it cannot survive. Therefore the body will do what it can to maintain flexion and extension even if there is inhibition or dysfunction of the primary muscles involved.
- Hip Flexion: Psoas, iliacus, tensor fascia latae, rectus femoris, anterior adductors (especially pectineus), sartorius
- Hip Extension: Gluteus maximus, biceps femoris (long head), semitendinosus, semimembranosus, posterior head of adductor magnus
Non-optimal strategies come about for a variety of reasons, one of the most common being the inhibition and “loss” of glute response due to our more sedentary lifestyle. As a bipedal animal, the glutes maintain our upright position, have connection with the erector spinae and thoraco-lumbar fascia, and co-contract along with the iliopsoas complex (psoas, iliacus) to provide lumbo-sacral stabilisation.
Problems occur when for whatever reason the flexor / extensor response, muscle fibre recruitment, and subsequent strength is poor. Since the priority of the body is to continue to move, other muscles will be recruited to take over the role of stabilisation, flexion, and extension.
Hip-extension can be initiated from the hamstrings and erector spinae (common in people with lower back pain), hip-flexion from the quads and tibialis anterior (over-developed quads), and hip-stabilisation may originate from the abdominals, shoulder, arm, or even jaw (tension and pain).
If the drivers of flexion (psoas) and extension (glutes) are not responsive and strong, other muscles will be recruited. If other muscle are recruited then they themselves are hampered from doing their roles, other compensatory muscles are recruited, and the dysfunction spreads.
As we move and train, these non-optimal compensatory “cheat” patterns become stronger and we simply get better at cheating. We will always use the cheat unless the primary muscles take over.
- If we are cheating we will eventually get hurt. Muscles should perform their primary roles, not the roles of other muscles. You cannot optimally use your arm and shoulder, if your shoulders and neck are trying to drive inwards and down to stabilise your hips. You cannot walk optimally if you cannot fully dorsiflex your ankles because your calfs are tight from driving upwards to be pseudo glutes. If your abdominals are chronically active, your breathing will be short, predominate in the chest, and feed into the sympathetic nervous system response, impeding your ability to relax and have optimal muscle length and tension.
- We want to train what we want to train. If we can get the right muscles to fire in the right patterning, we can train the muscles we want to train, and not the cheat patterns. This is one of the strongest benefits of the Be Activated / RPR systems, that we can focus the nervous system response to the primary drivers of movement, allowing the muscle-tendon structures and motor control patterns to be developed which will ultimately feed back into performance.
Quite simply, if your breathing, psoas and glutes are active from the onset of your warm-up, everything else will improve going forwards.
Explode don’t implode
Within the Be Activated / RPR systems we talk about the “1-2-3” pattern of movement.
Quite simply we want the following order of muscle recruitment:
- Zone 1: Psoas / Glutes
- Zone 2: Upper leg / Trunk
- Zone 3: Lower leg / Upper body
To break things down further we can talk about the most functional high performance hip-extension pattern as:
- Zone 1: Glutes
- Zone 2: Hamstring
- Zone 2: Contralateral Quadratus Lumborum (QL)
If for whatever reason the order is changed, then there is a loss of performance, and potential for injury. We want to explode outwards “1-2-3” not implode inwards.
This “implosion” is manifested in the compensatory pattern allowing a stronger test of the primary driver when the compensatory pattern is used.
For example we can test the psoas response by lying prone and extending our leg out to the side. If the psoas is responsive, not only should a static hold be efficient and easy, but any pressure downwards will result in a responsive opposing force.
If there is a compensatory pattern involved, such as ankle dorsiflexion, then the test will fail unless dorsiflexion is active. That is, if I ask a client to relax their foot they will not be able hold up their leg and resist force. Ask them to dorsiflex and they are immediately responsive again.
Fundamentally this then means they have to pull their foot back to create tension upwards to engage their psoas for hip-flexion. Think for a second what this pattern means for movement, especially running!
After clearing the compensation and stimulating the reflex points, the psoas responds on its own without dorsiflexion, the side-effect being a far more relaxed foot and ankle. Why? Because it no longer has to drive up and inwards.
All of this is a nervous system change, not a muscular strength change. We are testing and working on a nervous system level.
Fundamentally all these systems are focused on restoring and enhancing nervous system control of the primary muscles by both clearing compensatory tension and patterns, and “waking up” the neural pathway to these muscles.
Yes, you can have “too much core”
I mainly work with rock climbers whom have excessive resting abdominal tone. Having a chronic “6-pack” not only hampers diaphragmatic breathing—forcing you to chest breath and driving a sympathetic “stress” state—short tight muscles, but also locks down your rib-cage hampering trunk mobility, overhead extension, and the recruitment of your psoas and QL muscles.
Having “too much core” could mean you may end up firing from Zone 2 first, imploding inwards rather than exploding outwards limiting hip flexion and extension—leg drive, and very likely causing shoulder injuries. Body tension should be activated when required, it should not be the default resting state.
Personally I believe the focus should be on training acute core activation, not chronic core tension, but I will write more about that all another time.
Here is Cal Dietz demonstrating how bracing the core will impede the nervous system response, how a cross-crawl pattern will “reset” the response, and highlighting the importance of engaging your glutes rather than abs during your lifts.
Same work, differing modalities
Over the years I have qualified as a Level 2 Be Activated Practitioner, Level 2 RPR® Coach, and Chapman’s Reflexes Therapist.
All three systems overlap each other with high commonality, some distinctive application, but with the common philosophy of impacting the nervous system—facilitating the diaphragm (breathing), psoas and glute muscle complexes (hip flexion and extension), and the reciprocal reduction in compensation patterns elsewhere in the neuro-musculo-skeletal system.
- Be Activated (Douglas Heel): Practitioner hands-on focused (physiotherapist, osteopaths, remedial therapists, etc) system and philosophy using breathing, testing, and “activations” to impact the nervous system and well-being of the client. Level 1 is the system, Level 2 goes deeper into the philosophy and further diagnostics. The parent of RPR® but with higher emphasis on the individual client rather than team self-application.
- RPR® (Chris Korfist / Cal Dietz / JL Holdsworth): Primarily self-application focused Be Activated (plus more) system to empower trainers, coaches and athletes. Level 1 is the system background, basic testing and wake up drills™. Level 2 goes into deeper diagnostics and clearing specific compensation patterns. RPR L2 is very close to Be Activated L2.
- Chapman’s Reflexes (Paula Nutting): Practitioner hands-on remedial therapy course underpinned by the same “neuromuscular reflexes” used in both Be Activated and RPR. However developed independently in Australia by Paula Nutting likely years before Douglas Heel.
The Importance of this work
All these systems are a combination of breathing practice and manual stimulus that reduce compensatory stress, and increase the “neuromuscular signal volume”—the “mind muscle connection” to get primary muscles to be used primarily.
What follows is that compensatory muscle use (the “cheat”) is quietened, the muscle length tension relationship restored, and you are both more relaxed and more capable of performing better.
Whether you are an athlete, dancer, or even if you are not “formally” active. The technique and philosophy of these systems can have a dramatic impact on your performance, well being, and world-view. Many people have had significant emotional responses to the work, as they finally let go of longstanding physical tension and stress.
For more information, or to book a session, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Viking. ↩︎
What is RPR®. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2019, from https://www.reflexiveperformance.com/about ↩︎