What’s Obvious, Important, and How Is It Connected?
Recently we were fortunate enough to have Pat Davidson come down to CP and do an in-service for us. If you haven’t met Pat, you’ll probably gather, just from reading this, how energetic and passionate he is. He’s a wealth of knowledge all packed into a right hook to the face, and I love it. The following touches on a lot of different topics but gives you a global perspective on hopefully understanding, well…your situation. Hope you enjoy it.
Athletes need to train very hard and very often. Great athletes have greater mitochondrial density in their working muscles compared to lesser athletes. Great athletes have a faster rate of inhibiting working muscles following excitation compared to lesser athletes. People tend to feel and perform better when their heart rate variability increases and is optimized. People tend to feel and perform better when their major articulating surfaces are optimally oriented with one another, and when those joints possess appropriate range of motion starting from a neutral start position. People like to turn their heads and watch attractive people walk down the street. People like to turn their heads and look at dessert in a restaurant when it goes by. People tend to feel and perform better when their hormonal profile does not resemble a stressed out obese sarcopenic ED suffering dude who’s thinking about taking testosterone replacement for his missing sex drive and a statin for his excessively present cholesterol “problem”. People tend to feel better when their foramen magnum is centrated and the spinal cord passes into the skull and becomes a brain without being kinked, twisted, turned, or snagged due to triplanar loss of neutrality of the major articulating surfaces in the head, face, and neck. Is this paragraph just repeating the same thing over and over with different words? Yes.
During the course of the summer of 2012, I read Charlie Francis’ Platinum Series Collection Compilation book. After that I read Stu McGill’s Low Back Disorders book. After that I read Triphasic Training. After that I read Lardner, Frank, and Page’s Janda Approach book. In some ways I felt like I read the same book four times, written by 4 different people from four different perspectives. Over and over again I got the same message…low oxygen content in tissues equals’ bad news. Pain, inability to achieve maximal relaxation following maximal excitation, not as much heat in the working muscles leading to reduced electrical flow, greater capillary density leading to increased work capacity performed either under aerobic conditions or phosphagenic conditions for the most part, be careful with fatigue.
Same message, four different sources. In Triphasic Training I was told that Medvedyev originally was the guy who figured out that inhibition rate was the primary electrical difference between the most elite weightlifters and the lesser guys. Charlie Francis told me about how world class sprinters are world class inhibitors. The Janda Approach book told me that tightness situations come before length and weakness situations typically, and that muscles that are held in tightness/shortness situations by trigger points are being held there primarily because those tissues are not receiving enough oxygen.
Easy, free, beautiful joint actions that display force, velocity, biomechanical supremacy, and fatigue resistance are grounded and founded upon musculature that has optimized length tension relationships and fatigue resistance. Symmetry, balance, and fatigue resistance are the things that Stu McGill would like you to show him in his torso testing battery. Janda liked balance too because it equalized cocontraction between tonic and phasic muscle groups. Ron Hruska likes symmetry, balance, and fatigue resistance, especially when people can show the reciprocal of their dominant pattern and when they can alternate…where you move in and out of pathomechanical patterns of human existence. Gray Cook likes these things because they’ll give you a good FMS score. Every NFL executive and coach likes these things because they’ll keep their hundred million dollar investments on the field. You’ll like these things because they will make you feel better and perform better.
Great athletes across the broad range of sports seem to show adrenal hypertrophy in excess of matched control samples, and they also show tremendous capillary and mitochondrial density in their sporting muscles. How do you acquire these things? You train, and you train, and you train and you train. You impose more stress on yourself than anyone else, and if you’re going to get hypertrophy and vascular additions you must know something about recovery. If you recover better than I do, you get to train again sooner than I do. If you train sooner than I do, you get to recover again sooner than I do. If you recover faster than I do, you’re training again sooner than I am. You’re killing me, I can’t keep up with you. You’ll win, I’ll lose. How do I know you’re recovering faster than I am? Heart rate variability measurements are the biomarker. You’re in the penthouse, I’m in the doghouse…but why?
Heart rate variability is not interesting for what it tells us about the status of the heart. Rather it is interesting for what it tells us about the status of the brain. Specifically the mid brain/hind brain, specifically the ventromedial pre frontal cortex, the amygdala, and the medullary control systems. The sympathetic nervous system emits a pulse from the medulla that is at a frequency which makes the heart beat more like a metronome. The parasympathetic nervous system emits a frequency that tends to make the heart beat less like a metronome. Variability would be increased if the heart is not beating like a metronome. If you’re Captain Sympathetic, you’re not recovering really well. If you’re Coma Guy Parasympathetic Dude, you’re not recovering well either. Show me you can into a pattern and then show me you can get out of the pattern. Go get sympathetic like you mean it in training. Slide down the parasympathetic rabbit hole after. Crank and yank in the weightroom, rest and digest when you get released back out into the land of the civilians. If you are stuck in a Right Temporomandibular CranioCervical pathomechanical pattern with forward head posture, you are stuck sympathetic my man. If you can’t hit sphenobasilar flexion on your inhale, you are stuck sympathetic my homie. If you can’t get neutral, how are you going to recover as fast? You’re not. How are you going to get back in the weightroom as fast as Neutral Norman? Maybe you do…maybe you get hurt, maybe you get burnt out…maybe you don’t, but either way, all things being equal, Neutral Norman will win in the game of long term development of athletes.
You don’t really love other people. You love the way they make your pleasure centers release dopamine and oxytocin. You’re not attracted to the hot chick that spun your head around on the sidewalk, you like the chemical cascade she sets off in your brain. You don’t like eating just steak for dinner. You want steak and potatoes, and maybe a vegetable (maybe). You don’t just want cake. You want cake and ice cream. Why do you like these things? Because they make you move your head and eyes and mouth differently than you normally would. Watch a fat guy who sees cake. Watch a high testosterone male walk by the spandex clad elliptical row. They’ll turn their head, they’ll crane their neck, and they’ll make a circle with their mouth. They might even tell their buddy about what they’re looking at and laugh about it. Why do we like these things? Because heart rate variability is not interesting for what it tells us about the heart, it’s interesting for what it tells us about the brain. If they brain is stuck sympathetic because of positioning, it seems reasonable that maybe you could unstick it from this pattern by repositioning it. The brain is housed in the skull. If I move my skull, I move my brain. If I use the muscles of my face, they affect my skull and move my brain. You like things that catch your eye because of the way they affect your head, face, neck, and overall movement system. That hot chick just increased your heart rate variability, guy…don’t be afraid to twist and turn and watch her walk away. That meal with different colors, starches, vegetables, and proteins caused you to have to chew differently…which moved your head differently…which increased your variability…which made you enjoy the experience better…which made you better…which made you digest it better…because mood state = digestive state = endocrine state, because all of these things fall under the domain of autonomic control, and autonomic control is inside your medulla, which is highly dependent in its functioning on the position of your spine, neck, face, and skull.
Who looks around the most and has the most fun? Children. Who looks around the least and has the least fun? Old people in wheel chairs in nursing homes. What do we do all day? Sit behind cars and stare straight ahead. Sit at desks typing and staring straight ahead. Sit at our tables and eat monochromatic meals with the same consistency. Sit and watch television. Where’s the Goddamn variability in our culture? It’s gone. Everything about our culture is set up to reduce variability. Go outside. Nature is designed to increase your variability. Did you hear that rustle in the bushes, turn your head and check it out. Do you see those vultures circling a mile to the left? Let’s run there because maybe there’s a dead animal we can commandeer and we’ll have easy dinner. Mountains are beautiful, fruits are colorful, and streams are pleasant. Nature is beautiful for a reason. You’re supposed to look around. You’re not supposed to be wearing socially imposed horse blinders. You’re not supposed to have tunnel vision. You’re not supposed to sit in a desk all day. You’re not supposed to be exposed to white light for 18 hours a day, tricking you into believing you’re in perpetual summer and causing you to crave fructose.
Your autonomic nervous system controls everything in your body except for the contraction of skeletal muscle…fact! Let’s see then, autonomics controls every other organ system and functional system…that’s what you’re telling me?..yes! How does this relate exactly to the first paragraph of this article? The endocrine system is under the domain of the autonomic nervous system. Don’t believe me…go ahead and try to get your nighttime level GH pulse during sympathetic conditions. You’re stuck in a centralized fat pattern…you’re stuck sympathetic my man. You think you’re going to be looking, feeling, and performing like a stud when you’re Cortisol Carl? I don’t think so. You think you’re going to turn people’s heads and increase their heart rate variability if you’re insulin insensitive Sally? Think twice, and do so in a pragmatic manner, because nobody wants to check out your suprailiac fat depositions, dear heart. Hemodynamics is under the control of autonomics. Those tight muscles with low oxygen content are not getting blood flow because the pressor center in the vasomotor control center of the brain is sending sympathetic messages (epinephrine and norepinephrine to the arterioles governing the capillary flow into the fibers that are triggered up in your tight muscle). You don’t have a problem that needs to be fixed with local release work. You’ve got an autonomics issue.
In closing, what I’d like to tell you is that many of the issues that you assign blame to that are happening in your body are probably autonomics issues. Many of us are like dogs locked in a room we don’t want to be in. We scratch at the door, believing that this protocol is the appropriate method for opening doors. Hey it’s worked in the past for canines, hasn’t it? If they scratch long enough, somebody comes along and opens the door for them…conclusion, scratching equals best practice for door opening. Wrong, dog. Why are you so stupid, dog? Turn the knob, dog. We have autonomics based problems and we keep trying to solve them by scratching at doors with our claws. My advice, study doors, knobs, locking mechanisms, hinges, angular vectors, and viscosity matters. My advice, study anatomy of the skull, face, and neck…because there’s knobs, latches, locking mechanisms, hinges, angular vectors, and viscosity matters. If you line up all the bones up north and gain TMCC pattern neutrality, you just balanced out autonomics. If you can get into the pattern and out of the pattern, you just increased variability. If you can get temporal bone wobble, you just gained control over your endocrine system. We don’t live in the world of authentic nature anymore. It’s a damn shame because if we did, nature would get us closer to neutrality, and it would feed us variability. It would bathe us in changing photons through the light/dark cycle. It would improve my mitochondrial biogenesis by hitting me with just the right amount of red light at dusk. Since I don’t have the ability to live in nature because I am a pampered American who displays pusillanimous tendencies I’ll go ahead and hack the mainframe. Get neutral, gain command of your autonomics, balance your endocrine system, increase your heart rate variability, laugh, eat, talk, listen, look around, be comfortable being you. Enjoy knowing that you’re the most badass predator that has ever walked the surface of this planet’s crust. Be parasympathetic, because nothing has ever been as big a badass as you…what are you so worried about. Be a modern savage.
Pat Davidson is an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at Springfield College. Pat’s academic background includes an M.S. in Strength and Conditioning and a Ph.D in Exercise Physiology. Pat competes in Strongman in the 175 pound class, and has coached Springfield College Team Ironsports members to national championships and world championship appearances in Strongman. Pat specializes in using Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) concepts to keep athletes healthy and block program designs to help elite athletes raise their physiological fitness capacities to the highest possible levels. Pat is launching DELTA Force Training Systems (Dynamic Exercise Leading to Adaptations) in the spring of 2014. Services include seminars, in person evaluations, online evaluations, coaching for optimal lifting performance, strength and conditioning for all types of athletes, and program design. If you’d like to contact Pat, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and his cell phone is (508) 685-8455. Don’t be afraid to give a call or shoot a text, you don’t have to be a stranger…let’s talk shop.